“State of exception” in quake-stricken Chile

The Chilean military is attempting to restore order in the country’s second city, ConcepciĆ³n, amid looting in the wake of the devastating Feb. 27 earthquake. Troops have fired tear gas at “looters” attempting to flee with food and other goods from wrecked shops. A dusk-to-dawn curfew is in force in the city, where a major rescue effort is under way. Regional military commander Guillermo Ramirez issued a warning to would-be looters. “I would advise criminals not to mess with the armed forces. Our response will be severe, but within the context of the law,” he said.

President Michelle Bachelet, who is due to hand over power to president-elect SebastiƔn PiƱera on March 11, has called for international help, and said the death toll of 708 is likely to rise. (BBC News, March 1)

Bachelet has also declared a “state of catastrophe” for 30 days in ConcepciĆ³n province and Maule region, placing the zone under administrative control of the armed forces. Under Article 43 of the Chilean constitution, declaration of a “state of catastrophe” allows the president to “restrict the freedoms of movement and assembly.” The powers of the armed forces to take over civil functions in the event of emergency are outlined in Chile’s State of Exception Law. (MapuExpress, Chile, March 1)

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