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News > Latin America

Chile Releases Man Who Threatened to Bomb Secretary of State

  • Chile's Secretary of State Cecilia Perez has been threatened on Twitter with a bomb attack more than once.

    Chile's Secretary of State Cecilia Perez has been threatened on Twitter with a bomb attack more than once. | Photo: @segegob

Published 28 August 2018

Law student Nicolas Gonzalez was detained on Sunday for threatening to bomb Secretary of State Cecilia Perez, although he denies ever having been arrested.

A 23-year-old man from Chile was arrested then released for threatening on social media to bomb the home of Secretary of State Cecilia Perez.

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Nicolas Gonzalez was taken into custody on Sunday by the Organization of Criminal Investigations (OS-9) for tweeting that he dreamt he was from the MIR (Revolutionary Left Movement) political party and was targeting Secretary of State Cecilia Perez with a bomb in her home.

Gonzalez, a final-year law student, posted the message on Twitter earlier this month, followed immediately by another tweet: "I woke up sad because it was a dream."  

Chile's attorney general opened an investigation into Gonzalez after he posted the statement August 16 and he was arrested on August 26.

In a statement released by authorities, Gonzalez said: "I want to make clear that (the tweet) was a comment, there was no intention (to act) on it. I never tagged her in the post. I never meant to scare anyone. It was just a comment I published on my page."

However, by Monday, Gonzalez was denying he had ever been arrested: "That's a lie. They never arrested me. I wasn't detained for a minute, not that I'm aware of, at least… Maybe they put handcuffs on my feet. I don't know. I didn't see them," Gonzalez told Chilean national radio.

"It seems totally irresponsible to use state resources in this way," the law student concluded, noting that female friends had received death threats from ex-boyfriends and filed reports with the police, but arrests were almost never made.   

Police authorities said they took action because of the number of retweets garnered by Gonzalez's original threat. Perez also filed a formal complaint against the student, and the investigation is ongoing.

This was not the first time Gonzalez had made online threats against national politicians. Last September and December, the 23-year-old threatened on Twitter to kill then-presidential candidate Sebastian Piñera. Two weeks before the December run-off vote, Gonzalez tweeted: "What are we waiting for to kill Piñera? I don't understand."

Nor was it the first time Perez had been threatened on Twitter with a bomb attack. In 2015, she filed a restraining order against a male who threatened her with an explosive.

"This is not acceptable. In our country, no person should be threatened, attacked or violated for thinking differently," Perez said.

There is little international consensus as to how such online threats should be handled.

In the United States, threatening to kill the president can invite a visit by the Secret Service, which according to Associated Press happened to a Kentucky woman in 2016 after she tweeted: "If someone was cruel enough to assassinate MLK, maybe someone will be kind enough to assassinate Trump."

However, U.S. authorities, likely overwhelmed by the sheer volume, did little about the other 12,000 or so calls over social media to assassinate Trump posted within the first few days of his presidency.

In the United Kingdom, two people were jailed for several weeks for threatening to kill a political activist in 2014. Freedom of speech experts there say there is still fear of social media, and the judicial system has yet to agree on what constitutes a genuine threat.

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