Repeal of the Death Penalty in Chile: May 2002

Repeal of the Death Penalty in Chile: May 2002
Repeal of the Death Penalty in Chile: May 2002

In Chile, the death penalty is a constant of political, moral and social conjectures, where the legal precept has a clearly established norm that, however, is sometimes questioned by a part of the citizens. The reasons are diverse, among them, the increase in homicides, a deliberate criminal situation and the weak justice that has been dragging on for years in the country. Perhaps, we are in the presence of a veiled dialogue, a pending conversation, a necessary and forgotten re-reading of what was established in May 2002, in other words, a new analysis of the Repeal of the Death Penalty in Chile.

First, despite the fact that on June 5, 2000, Law No. 19,734 was published, which repealed the death penalty as a sanction in much of the national legislation, and replaced it with qualified life imprisonment, of no less of 40 years, it was not until May 24, 2002, when Law No. 19,804 was approved, that said punishment was completely abolished from the country’s ordinary legal system. Let us remember that the death penalty, capital punishment or execution is the greatest punishment of a State towards a citizen. Its history dates back to ancient times, in Israel, Rome, Babylon, Persia and Greece. It is currently applied to more than 30 countries, such as the USA, Japan, the Middle East, among many others. Furthermore, it was during the government of Ricardo Lagos that this practice ceased, although it had already stopped being carried out more than a decade ago in the national territory. On the other hand, in an interview with the Diario La Tercera Hugo Alvarez Cárcamo, senior lawyer at Alvarez y Cía., explains that the death penalty in Chile was repealed, since no matter how “very serious the crime committed by a certain individual is, “The total deprivation of life cannot be in the hands of other men; with this principle, the death penalty was modified by qualified life imprisonment.” Without a doubt, the problem alludes to important advances in the care and preservation of Human Rights, but it embodies a new social reality during the second decade of this 21st century.

Second, in the 90s, the contemplated measure was no longer supported by the citizens, nor by the authorities, therefore, its annulment began to be processed. It should be noted that it was in 1999 that the First Constitutional Procedure was carried out in the Senate, and in 2002, Law 19,734 was definitively promulgated, which eliminated the death penalty in Chile, in the Government of Ricardo Lagos Escobar, although , in parentheses, has an important influence in terms of management, work and discussion during the year 2001. Finally, the so-called death penalty was replaced by qualified life imprisonment, the rudiment of which contemplates 40 years of effective deprivation of liberty for an individual as such. . Now, the questions that arise after all this are multiple, for example: How current are these legal elements in the public debate? Is it justifiable to reinstate the death penalty in some cases experienced by our country? How to bring religious morality into dialogue with legal ethics for the purposes of human condemnation? Could it be that religion is the main opposition to reestablishing this practice in national society? How to delimit a moral judgment if we talk about legal effect? Chile probably continues to be a conservative country in matters of a moral nature, although it ignores value bias with respect to a clearly open discussion, where the categories of justice, freedom and condemnation must be seen in the light of political philosophy, not only under a magnifying glass of juxtaposed morality.

Benjamín Escobedo Araneda

Member of the Society of Church History in Chile

PhD student in History, San Sebastián University


Lic. Theology

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