Chile: Spy like in Germany

German police officers are advising the police in Santiago on setting up a department for undercover investigations. Further support is provided to improve the public presentation of police measures

German criminal investigation offices are helping the police in Chile to set up a unit for undercover investigations. One of the partners providing expertise was the State Criminal Police Office (LKA) of Baden-Württemberg, which visited the Chilean authorities on site. This was confirmed by the Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Stephan Mayer, in response to an inquiry by left-wing MP Ulla Jelpke. Security authorities had been „advised“ during the visit.

The LKA in Baden-Württemberg is one of those German authorities whose spies against left movements have been exposed in recent years. At the end of 2010, the undercover police officer Simon Bromma was discovered in Heidelberg, who was set upon anti-fascist groups under the alias „Simon Brenner“. The officer was also active in neighboring countries, the state government justified a trip to a No Border Camp in Brussels with „legend building“. Five years later, the Administrative Court in Karlsruhe declared the operation in Heidelberg illegal.

Advide from German inspector of riot police

Police critical graffiti at Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral in Santiago.

It remains unclear which cooperation partners are involved. In Chile there are only two police authorities, presumably the support was given to the criminal investigation police (Policía de Investigaciones). The gendarmerie (Carabineros) is responsible for all other tasks. It belongs to the Ministry of Defence, but its units are commanded by the Minister of the Interior.

The reply of the Secretary of State does not exclude the possibility that the Carabineros also benefit from German support for undercover investigations. The troops took brutal action against the revolt that broke out in the capital Santiago in mid-October due to fare increases and quickly spread to the entire country. More than 30 people were killed following clashes with the police, and the same number lost their eyesight as a result of tear gas or rubber bullets. The Chilean human rights institute INDH has counted almost 4,000 injured and many thousands of demonstrators are in prison.

State of emergency ends revolt

On Tuesday Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera presented a plan to reform the Carabineros. He praised the military unit for its endurance against the five-month protests and announced a „modernisation“. The Carabineros are to adhere to human rights through more control and become more close to the citizens. The German inspector of the riot police of the Länder, Andreas Backhoff, was also involved as a consultant in a commission to draw up the proposals of the commission. Backhoff had advised that Carabinerios operations should be recorded and explained with „proactive communication“.

One day after the presentation of the reform plan, with the outbreak of the Corona epidemic, Piñera declared a state of emergency and ordered the military for control. One of the first police measures was to remove traces of the uprisings.

Interpol conference in Chile

The „working visit“ of the LKA Baden-Württemberg to Chile was financed by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The federal authority is active there itself with police training. As part of the „Police Construction Assistance“, the BKA has supported employees of Chilean police authorities with a scholarship program.

Piñera with former BKA Vice President at Interpol General Assembly in Santiago (Interpol).

As a member of Interpol, officers of the BKA also took part in the General Assembly of the police organization in Santiago in mid-October. Parallel to the outbreak of the uprisings in Chile, former BKA Vice President Jürgen Stock was confirmed there for a second term as Interpol Secretary General.

Training in citizen friendliness?

Two months later, the German Ministry of the Interior intensified its cooperation with Chile. At the request of the Chilean government, a German police delegation travelled to Santiago in December 2019 and most recently in February 2020. According to the German government, the request was made to support „reform processes“ in police training. Experts from Berlin police also took part in the trips, to discuss, among other things, „communication and citizen friendliness“.

Possibly this also concerned the external presentation of police measures. The Berlin police are known nationwide for their Twitter appearance, which is praised as citizen-friendly and transparent. However, the public relations department had tweeted false news several times, which were spread by agencies nationwide.

Image: Police critical graffiti at Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral in Santiago.

Autor: Matthias Monroy

Knowledge worker, activist, editor of the German civil rights journal Bürgerrechte & Polizei/CILIP.