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Chile constitutional delegates detained during protest over political prisoners

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By Reuters
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By Fabian Cambero and Aislinn Laing

SANTIAGO – Chilean police on Thursday detained two delegates to Chile’s constitutional convention in a central square in the capital Santiago during a protest over political prisoners, their coalition said on Twitter.

Armed police wearing helmets and flak jackets hauled off the two delegates, Alejandra Perez and Manuel Woldarsky, in a chaotic scene relayed on social media. Protesters screamed at security forces as the representatives were loaded onto a truck with other detainees.

It was not immediately clear why the delegates had been detained by police. Chile’s Carabinero police force did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Both delegates belong to the Lista del Pueblo, a group of independent representatives to Chile’s newly elected constitutional convention who are not affiliated with existing political parties. The group garnered the third largest number of votes during the election of representatives, behind left- and right- leaning coalitions.

“We went to accompany the mothers of political prisoners in a peaceful protest when we were invaded by this contingent (of the police),” said Rodrigo Rojas, another member of the movement who attended the protest.

The delegates had joined a group of protesters that allege the Chilean government took political prisoners during massive, and sometimes violent, demonstrations over inequality that took place in late 2019. The government has rejected the allegations that the detentions were politically-motivated.

Those protests opened the door to a referendum last October in which Chileans voted to rewrite the current constitution – drafted during Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

The 155-strong constitutional convention is dominated by independent candidates, some of them with roots in the 2019 protests. Two weeks ago, before the delegates were sworn in, there were clashes between police and demonstrators outside the venue that prompted the event to be suspended. One member of the convention was reportedly hurt in the scuffles.