Chile’s interior minister resigns over protests charge

Chile’s Interior Minister Victor Perez resigned Tuesday after the Chamber of Deputies approved a constitutional charge against him for police repression of the country’s social justice protests.

Perez, 66, was also suspended from the chamber.

“Not only am I suspended, I am resigning as minister of the interior,” Perez, who took office only three months ago, told reporters in Congress. 

The lower house voted by 80 votes to 70 to approve the constitutional charge — brought by opposition lawmakers — alleging Perez’s negligence in police handling of a protest by truck drivers in southern Chile, and his overall responsibility for police actions against protesters. 

Lawmakers acceded to the opposition request after a policeman pushed a 16-year-old boy off a bridge during a protest in Santiago in October.

The Chamber of Deputies’ decision will now have to be approved by the Senate, which will determine if Perez is banned from holding public office for five years.

President Sebastian Pinera accepted the resignation in a statement backing Perez, saying he had “fulfilled all his duties,” and respected the constitution.

The minister is a far-right politician who worked under the 1973-1990 Pinochet dictatorship as mayor of the southern city of Los Angeles.

Perez was appointed interior minister in July after spending several years in the Senate, replacing Gonzalo Blumel, who had in turn replaced Andres Chadwick, Pinera’s cousin, a cabinet hardliner and a close confidante of the president.

Chadwick was dismissed by Congress in December, after a similar constitutional charge brought by Congress.