Chile’s lower house of congress voted Tuesday to censure a key cabinet member over allegations he failed to stop police abuses during a flare-up of social unrest this year.
Lawmakers voted 80 to 74 against Interior Minister Victor Perez over his responsibility in human rights violations and police brutality during recent protests. Perez, a former right-wing senator who was tapped to his post in July, will be suspended from his role while the Senate investigates the charges.
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Opposition lawmakers also accused Perez of double standard, as he didn’t impose security measures during a trucker strike in August that disrupted supply chains in southern Chile.
“The minister has been evasive when acknowledging the police’s human rights abuses,” said lower house member Gabriel Ascensio, at his presentation of the accusation. Perez also, “without any explanation, refused to apply his own law when it came to dealing with these truckers.”
The vote is another blow to President Sebastian Pinera as he faces resurgent demonstrations and uncertainty over a rewrite of the country’s constitution. Tensions are running high as citizens demand better public services and a more equitable society. The censure may augment divisions in the ruling coalition and complicate efforts to present unified proposals on the new charter.
Chileans overwhelmingly backed drafting a new constitution in an October referendum agreed upon by the government and political parties in a bid to quell social unrest that sparked late last year.
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Last month a police officer was detained for attempted murder after allegedly pushing a teenage boy from a bridge during a demonstration.
Former Interior Minister Andres Chadwick was banned last year from public office for five years over failure to halt human rights violations amid the unrest.
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