They can be seen in almost every demonstration. In Maipú, Claudia Vergara is a kind of institution. Chaos lurks and she does not run. On the contrary: record. Your protection? a white helmet that reads DDHH Sutra.
Then calm. The smell of tear gas began to disperse and the police took detained protesters to the police station. The vans leave the Plaza Maipú. And Claudia goes to the place where several and several will begin their confinements.
I offer him an interview and he is reluctant. He does not want to appear. For her, having a coffee delivered to her (she’s a fan) on a long night at a police station seems like a reward enough for the crucial work she does.
After several messages, I manage to convince her. In The Voice of Maipú we are doing a October 18 special, and their presence – in the opinion of this director – is essential. Like the Gladys Lopez, of the Red Cross branch Maipú.
It’s Saturday, October 17, and – although he doesn’t know it – in a few hours he will be back on the slopes. In a commemorative candle in Plaza de Maipú, 2 minors and 14 older people were arrested.
Claudia Vergara on Human Rights SUTRA: “We are not an NGO and within the criteria of integration to SUTRA is not to be a member of any party”
– What is human rights SUTRA? I’ve never known what the acronym means
DDHH SUTRA stands for the Union of Independent Workers in Production and Services and was created to seek legal coverage for Human Rights observers in 2010.
We are not an NGO and within the criteria for joining SUTRA it is not to be a member of any party, that does not mean that some were militants at some point before joining. We do not receive contributions from anyone, we are 100% self-managed. I joined in 2011.
– And what does a member of DDHH SUTRA do in a context of protests or social demonstrations?
– We observe the demonstrations and make sure that the military and police forces comply with the human rights protocols established at the national and international level and that have been signed by the State of Chile. That is why we record audiovisual material and we are present at the police stations to assess compliance with the rights of the detainees.
– How did your work in Human Rights SUTRA start in the Maipú commune in the framework of the social outbreak?
We were there since October 17, within the framework of the outbreak in Maipú but we were already covering the whole issue in the high schools in the center of Santiago.
– And how did you see the outbreak in your role in Maipú?
What happened in Maipú broadly speaking and keeping the proportions, is something that had been happening many years ago when it comes to student struggle. Let us remember the “Pingüinazo of 2006” and the great seizures and mobilizations of 2011-2016 where in Maipú the high schools were seized for long periods, in terms of national and local demands. On issues of violence it has been continuous from the 90s onwards, the advantage is that now there are social networks and everyone has a phone to record. Something that also makes the issue more visible is the massiveness of the demonstrations. This translates into greater human rights violations and, at the same time, greater complaints.
– And amid so much protest and conflicts, how is HRD SUTRA organized to cover the territory?
An attempt was made to cover the needs as much as possible from the point of view of calls. In the case of Maipú, I was in charge of covering, since we also organized ourselves in such a way that each member covered the place where we reside.
– You were on the street a lot, you saw arrests. Were the rights of the protesters and detainees fulfilled in the Maipú commune?
Analyzing the observation time that SUTRA had, from October 17, 2019 to March 13, 2020, we had a very broad spectrum of information. For this reason, we delivered, together with OPAL, audiovisual material in a meeting held with Amnesty International denouncing the breach of the public order control protocols against the demonstrations. What happened in Maipú is not different from what happened at the national level.
– Any case in Maipú that marked you in a particular way?
All the cases mark you but there are always cases that, due to the constraints or torture, mark you a little more, they remain in the retina. Also, being outside the police stations you are in contact with the family and many times you know realities that affect you deeply.
– In those days, networks of people and institutions were set up that took risks for guarding those attacked and detained. Who do you stand out for their work in Maipú?
A great support were the lawyers. Some who were not from the commune, such as the Legal Defender of the University of Chile and especially Dafne, an ABOFEM lawyer and part of the Legal Defender of Chile who spent 6 months teaming up at the police station.
The Public Criminal Defender, the ombudsman for children and the NHRI who were present at the police stations and on the streets to see the situation of the mobilization. Furthermore, on October 19, when the military arrived in Maipú, a team of Observers and lawyers from the INDH were present and we toured the entire Maipú square area.
– That was the legal part. But I imagine other organizations were there too.
Yes. The health teams were an important part, the Maipú Red Cross was fundamental in the entire outbreak and the large number of daily injuries. In addition to the various organizations that were added over time. The teachers from Maipú who came with food or coffee, would take you home after the day, often very long and at dawn.
– Someone else who do you highlight?
There is a councilor who was very supportive at the police station and when the boys went out many times he took them home. As he was very respectful and at least I did not see that he wanted to appear, I will reserve his name, those of us who were there know who did invisible work.
– Will there be justice? Or maybe repair?
We all hope for justice but unfortunately justice takes time. In order to have reparation, there must be justice. The first thing to speed up the processes is to persevere in the complaint, gather the maximum amount of evidence. Something that SUTRA repeatedly emphasizes in our information. After that we can request repair.
– And how are the processes that you have seen go?
Many processes are on the right track because they were the means of proof that have managed to bring to trial officials who committed coercion and torture against detainees. In this matter the NGO Popular Defense and the Public Criminal Defense they have played a very active role.