Overwhelmed by criticism of massive illegal immigration, Boric militarizes Chile’s northern border

Challenged by the climate of violence that grows day by day, amid demands from native residents who ask it to “stop the flood of undocumented immigrants (mostly Venezuelans) arriving from Peru and Bolivia,” the government of leftist Gabriel Boric announced this weekend “the militarization of the northern border of Chile”, even authorizing the use of force in cases where migrants do not comply with the orders issued to them when they try to enter the country through unauthorized means.

“We are going to be touring some of the deployment sites next Monday, seeing how this work of the armed forces is going to be supported”said the Minister of the Interior, Carolina Toha, another of the most criticized officials of the Boric administration.

Strictly speaking, the entire Chilean government is in the eye of the hurricane, submerged in criticism from the inhabitants of the north of the country, who have been complaining for months about an increasingly serious situation. “There is not enough to accommodate the number of people, many of them undesirables and criminals, who arrive every day, there are no services, there is not enough work, they live on the streets, many engage in robbery, relieve themselves on the road public or the beaches, there is no way to bear this anymore…”said a resident of Colchane, reflecting the spirit of the protest marches that take place in various places in Chile, with the claim of “Chile for Chileans.”

“Control steps not enabled”

The order to the military who will take care for 90 days of trying to control this true tragedy that tens of thousands of people experience, who often arrive in Chile with no more than what they put on, will initially focus on the regions of Arica and Parinacota, Tarapacá and Antofagasta, according to a decree signed by Boric.

The Chilean president had resisted since the beginning of his administration to face the massive arrival of foreigners through the north of the country, mostly fleeing the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Those who manage to leave Bolivarian territory cross Peru in increasingly precarious conditions, and many times when they enter Chile they do not have money or documents. In the northern cities of the country, some left-wing or social aid organizations tried to help them, but the volume of people arriving has already become unmanageable. There are those who point out that the north of Chile is already home to a million people in this condition, and all assistance and social care services have collapsed.

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According to Boric’s decree, military units “They will be able to carry out identity checks and detain people who enter or leave through an unauthorized border crossing,” and then hand them over to the local police.

The law decree issued by the government argues that there is “an increase in migratory flows in the country, which has caused the massive arrival of the population through unauthorized passages.”

The mayor Javier García of the municipality of Colchane, one of the border points where the measure will be activated, denounced on local radio that “Here an average of 400 people arrive daily through unenabled steps. Chile registers an increase in immigrants from nearby countries but especially from Venezuela.

The Andean town of Colchane, on the border with Bolivia, is the most used step for foreigners to enter Chile, and it is a region where dozens of people have died in recent years. Those who manage to reach Chilean cities settle as best they can in tents or squares, walking adrift asking for help.

This measure is added to others taken by Chile in recent years, to try to control the migratory flow from the north. A year ago, the government of then-President Sebastián Piñera widened a 600-meter trench built six years earlier near Colchane.

Criminal gangs dedicated to smuggling and drug trafficking, however, built bridges to cross it, which were also used by undocumented migrants, mainly Venezuelans. The deployment of soldiers on the border may be maintained, with prior agreement with Congress, once these first 90 days are over. All this has generated a picture in which the image of the Boric government loses more points in its image day by day, which pollsters place at just over a year in office, has disapproval rates that exceed 70%.

AFP/HB

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