Santiago de Chile, Nov 4 (EFE) .- The president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, appointed on Monday night the new Commander in Chief of the Army, the highest authority of the institution and a position that takes on special relevance now that the conflictive south of the country is militarized and under a state of exception due to violence.
General Javier Iturriaga del Campo, until now head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will hold the position for a period of four years from March 2022, coinciding with the end of the term of the conservative Piñera.
“General Iturriaga has a long, valuable and broad professional experience,” said Piñera.
“Both in the strictly military field and in the moments when the Armed Forces provide services to the citizenry, they have demonstrated their ability, their character, their prudence,” he added.
With almost 40 years of military experience, Iturriaga has a degree in Military Sciences and served as Chief of National Defense during the state of emergency decreed in the capital during the massive protests of 2019.
At that time, Chile was experiencing the greatest social crisis in decades, with a wave of demonstrations for equality that took over the streets for months and left about thirty injured, thousands of injured and serious accusations of human rights violations against the security forces by a excessive use of force.
It was during this episode that Piñera said in controversial statements that Chile was “at war against a powerful enemy,” but Iturriaga decided to distance himself from this statement and distance himself from the president.
“I am a happy man, I am not at war with anyone” he assured then.
The following year he was appointed by the president as Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and now he will succeed General Ricardo Martínez as the institution’s highest command.
The appointment takes on special relevance now that the troubled south of the country, where there is a historical territorial conflict between indigenous Mapuche and forestry companies, is experiencing an escalation of violence.
As part of this dispute, attacks on agricultural machinery and farms, roadblocks, hunger strikes by indigenous prisoners and shootings with fatalities are frequent.
On the same day of the appointment, the death of two people was confirmed in the Biobío region, an area that has been militarized and under a state of exception since last October 12.
There are four provinces in total, from the Biobío and La Araucanía regions, that are under this measure, which has allowed the deployment of more than 2,000 troops and the arrest of more than 30 people who already had an arrest warrant, according to information official.
On Monday, Piñera asked Congress for an extension of the militarization of these areas without specifying how long it will last, a measure that this time will need the approval of Parliament as it is the third time it has been extended.