TEMUCO – In the Catrillanca case, the suspects in the killing of the Mapuche man have now heard the prison sentences demanded by the prosecutor, including 15 years in prison for the alleged shooter. In the upcoming hearings, ministers, senators, and generals are called to appear in court and testify.
The indictment, presented by the Human Rights Unit of the Prosecutor’s Office in the Araucanía region´s capital Temuco, lists charges against eight suspects in the Catrillanca case. Among those indicted are the four members of the elite force unit called GOPE directly involved in the shooting of Camilo Catrillanca on November 14. The indictments and years in prison sought are as follows:
- Carlos Alarcón, the sergeant of the elite unit and the one accused of killing Catrillanca: 15 years, i.e., 10 for homicide and 5 for attempted homicide, as Alarcón, according to the prosecutor, also shot at the 15-year-old boy that accompanied Catrillanca during his last moments.
- Raúl Ávila, the second GOPE member: nearly 8 years, for a series of crimes related to the case.
- Gonzalo Pérez, the driver of the vehicle in which the four policemen were traveling at the moment of the killing: nearly 4 years.
- Jorge Contreras, a retired colonel, who was part of a group of police officers that allegedly obstructed the investigation: nearly 4 years.
- Manuel Valdivieso, the ex-chief of the elite force in La Araucanía: nearly 4 years.
- Patricio Sepúlveda, the third GOPE member: nearly 1 year, for obstructing the investigation.
- Braulio Valenzuela, the fourth GOPE members: likewise nearly 1 year, for obstructing the investigation.
- Cristián Inostroza, a lawyer for the policemen, who allegedly obstructed the investigation: 1 year, plus exclusion from his profession for 6 years.
High Positioned Witnesses
The next stage of the case will be a series of hearings, involving witnesses called to court by the Temuco prosecutor. Among the list of 73 witnesses are Minister of Internal Affairs Andrés Chadwick, the Subsecretary of Internal Affairs Rodrigo Ubilla, Senator Felipe Kast (representative in the area), ex-representative of the Araucanía region Luis Mayol, and former Carabineros director Hermes Soto.
According to the prosecutor, these people participated in cover-ups that came to light in the weeks after Catrillanca’s shooting. Apart from the witnesses, 36 experts and 150 documents and evidence will be handed to the judges in the case.
The Catrillanca Case: What Happened?
On November 14, members of a GOPE unit responded after several cars allegedly had been stolen from a school in Ercilla in the Araucanía region. During the chase both sides shot at each other, but when Camilo Catrillanca crossed the road on his tractor there was no shootout going on. Still, a GOPE-squad member, Carlos Alarcón, shot him several times. Catrillanca died on the spot, unarmed.
The death of Catrillanca triggered heavy protests in cities throughout Chile. Universities were occupied and the resignation of those involved was demanded by Chilean opposition. The entire GOPE-squad, known as Jungle Commando due to their training in Colombia, was withdrawn by President Piñera.
But the death of Camilo Catrillanca also meant for decision-makers involved to start covering up for each other. Luis Mayol, the government representative for the Araucanía region, had to resign after claiming that Catrillanca had a criminal record and was involved in the car robbery before the shootout took place.
Minister of Internal Affairs Andrés Chadwick appeared in Congress and was interpellated by Mapuche parliamentarian Nuyado. After holding back information about a call he received from a police general on the day Catrillanca was killed, informing him over what had happened, opposition demanded his resignation.
Another key-figure, Hermes Soto, then director of the Carabineros in Chile, stated that body cams worn by policemen had been turned off, and that other recordings had been erased – according to a policeman, because the memory card contained intimate images of him with his partner.
But footage of the assassination of Camilo Catrillanca did appear, forcing Soto and 10 other generals to resign. An assassination of an indigenous man, political cover-up at the highest level, the entire Chilean police force in crisis: the final chapters of one of the heaviest crisis of the second Piñera administration are being written with the indictments from the prosecutor in Temuco.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and made appearances on BBC World Services and ABC News during major events in Chile.