Chilean Police Arrested for 2005 Puerto Montt Kidnapping

Written by Cathal Sheerin - Monday, 16 March 2009

Three police officers were arrested Sunday for their alleged participation in the 2005 kidnapping and disappearance of 16-year-old Jose Huenante of Puerto Montt, Region X.

Foto: Jose Huenante

They have been charged with the crime of “theft of minors” – legally equivalent to kidnapping – which increases the gravity of the offences. The accused officers, if found guilty, face between 10 and 20 years in prison.

The accused were arrested by members of the Human Rights Crimes Investigation Squad, and are identified as: Juan Ricardo Altamirano Figueroa, Patricio Alejandro Mera Hernandez, and Cesar Antonio Vidal Cardenas.

Foto: Jose Huenante

Controversy surrounds the events of the night in question, Sept. 3, 2005. The narrative is one of delinquent youth, police confrontations and falsified police records.

According to Public Prosecutor Sergio Coronado, on the night Jose Huenante disappeared, he was drinking alcohol in the street with a group of youths. They began throwing stones at a passing police patrol car, which provoked a response involving 12 officers. The youths then ran away, pursued by the police. Patrol car 1375, which contained the accused officers, also gave chase. This is the same car in which two witnesses claim later to have seen Huenante. And this is the last time anyone saw Jose Huenante.

The officers in question deny arresting the youth, but their accounts of the events have been contradictory, and are made more suspicious by questionable record-keeping. Coronado asserts that records kept by police for the night of Sept. 3 have been changed. He says that Altamirano altered – from two to one – the number of arrests for that night. And importantly, that patrol car 1375 did not maintain a record of its activities for that night between 2:15 a.m. and 6 a.m., the time frame during which Huenante disappeared.

Lawyers defending the accused have argued that this information has been known for the past three years, and is not sufficient to accuse the three officers who have “impeccable” records.

The court ordered that the accused officers be confined to cells during the night, although they will be at liberty during the day. The officers will also continue to receive full pay, but will not be allowed to carry out duties in the street.

This has drawn an angry response from Socialist Party President and Region X Senator Camilio Escalano, who has demanded the officers’ immediate and complete suspension from duty.

The disappeared youth, Jose Huenante, lived with his aunt Maria Huenante. On Sept. 4, 2005, she went to the Police station in the 5th Precinct of Puerto Montt to report his disappearance, but without success. “They wouldn’t accept my report. They told me that I should look for him in the hospital or jail,” she said. Later, she formally complained and was summoned to the police station again. She says a police officer there tried to make her sign a document retracting her complaint: “I felt intimidated, because he warned me that if I didn’t do it, I would be arrested. The only thing that I was interested in was finding my nephew,” she said.

Sources: El Mercurio
Santiago Times.


Source: The Patagonian Times



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