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News > Latin America

Bolivian Officers Reiterate Innocence in Chile on Smuggling Charges

  • All nine officers are held in pre-trial detention in the Alto Hospicio Prison where they have reportedly been subject to beatings and stabbed during their imprisonment.

    All nine officers are held in pre-trial detention in the Alto Hospicio Prison where they have reportedly been subject to beatings and stabbed during their imprisonment. | Photo: Rueters

Published 9 June 2017
Opinion

Bolivian President Evo Morales appealed to Pope Francis last month to intervene in the case and help resolve the the neighboring countries' dispute.

Four of nine Bolivians arrested in Chile who are awaiting trial repeated their innocence of charges of aggravated theft, smuggling and illegal possession of weapons to prosecutors.

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The Bolivians, two soldiers and seven customs agents, were apprehended in Chile at the Colchane border on March 19, according to Chilean police.

According to their Attorney Claudio Vila, all necessary procedures into the investigations have been observed and the defendants are convinced they did nothing illegal. They even stated they had reported their actions to superiors.

The agents detected 3 trucks travelling from Chile, from an unauthorized area, in the act of smuggling. While attempting to apprehend the drivers, two escaped back into Chile. The Bolivian officers seized the remaining vehicle, but were forced to abandon it and return after it suffered mechanical trouble. At which point, the incident had been reported as robbery and the agents were searched and arrested by Chilean police.

Bolivian President Evo Morales reached out to Pope Francis last month, asking him to intervene.

“I beg you to intervene in the best possible way to quickly resolve this case,” Morales wrote in a May 10 letter to the pontiff. “Justice must conclude with the liberation of nine Bolivian functionaries.” He said those in prison were being “deprived of their human rights in Iquique, Chile.”

Bolivian Army commander-in-chief, Carols Ruck stated that the defendants are not criminals, but simply carrying out their duties in the fight against smuggling. The arrests have been considered to be a violation of international law and such a case would usually be investigated by foreign law enforcement.

All nine are held in pre-trial detention in the Alto Hospicio Prison where they have reportedly been subject to abuse during their imprisonment.

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