SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s police chief Mario Rozas resigned on Thursday following months of controversy over alleged rights abuses and excessive use of force by the country’s security forces.
His resignation comes immediately after police officers on Wednesday allegedly shot and wounded two boys during a raid at the offices of Chile’s child welfare service in Talcahuano, a coastal port city south of the capital Santiago.
Rozas’ leadership had already come under heavy scrutiny last year, after thousands of Chileans were injured in clashes with police during mass protests over inequality. Those incidents prompted a groundswell of allegations of abuse against the country’s security forces by global and national rights groups.
Many of those cases are still under investigation. Rozas has long denied those abuses were systemic, or in any way condoned by police leadership.
President Sebastian Pinera, who accepted Rozas’ resignation in a televised speech, said he appreciated and admired the police chief’s work, and said Rozas had served at a “extraordinarily difficult and complex time.”
Rozas will be replaced by police general Ricardo Yanez, his second in command.
The police chief leaves amid a tumultuous period in Chile marked by protests, a move to rewrite the country’s constitution and a raging coronavirus pandemic that have combined to hobble the nation’s long-stable economy.
Reporting by Dave Sherwood and Natalia Ramos; Editing by Bernadette Baum