By Margaret Janelle R. Hutchinson
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SANTIAGO, Chile – Chile’s top ranked government officials are appalled by the language of a recently exposed internal army document, which implies that homosexuals, poor people, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups are not morally fit to serve in the Chilean Army. Rights advocates are calling for the forced retirement of General Cristián Chateau who signed the offending memo.
The exposure of the leaked document, distributed internally on February 22, 2012, comes on the heels of Chile’s first-ever anti-discrimination law, passed in July of this year.
On Friday, Chile Vice President Rodrigo Hinzpeter condemned the document, which surfaced on Thursday, as “very serious and completely unjustified.”
“The document is completely off base from the current reality of our country and should be immediately adjusted to the norms of our anti-discrimination law, which President Sebastian Piñera’s administration enacted a few months ago,” Hinzpeter said.
The document advocated for prioritizing the recruitment of “citizens of more appropriate moral and intellectual capacities,” and excluding “those with physical or mental health problems, the poor, criminals, drug users, homosexuals, conscientious objectors and Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Many militaries around the world have standards of physical and mental health that must be met in order to serve. It is the suggestion of categorical exclusion of entire classes of individuals that has Chile up in arms.
Army Commander in Chief Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba condemned any systematic discrimination in the ranks and apologized for the document.
“As Commander in Chief of the army I categorically reject any document, provision, regulation or internal instructions that arbitrarily discriminate against any person or member of an institution,”
“I sincerely apologize to anyone who might have felt affected by such unfortunate language from an internal army document,” Fuente-Alba said.
“It must be guaranteed that there is no discrimination,” Fuente-Alba told the press on Friday. “And I have set the deadline of 10 a.m. Monday for all documents and similar forms to be revised. It must be clear that the Army belongs to all Chileans.”
Defense Minister Andres Allemand added that such ideas are completely opposed to government policy, and said he’s asked for a full military review of the matter to eliminate any such guidance.
The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) said the army’s response has so far been “insufficient.”
“Today we are calling on the defense minister to remove Gen. Chateau from his post,” Rolando Jiménez, president of Movilh, said before the Ministry of Defense on Friday. “It cannot be possible for someone with such a level of classism and homophobia to be in charge of a military unit as important as the army’s first division.”
“And today we have to learn from this violent situation and these lessons are for a proactive policy from every branch of the armed forces and in particular the army and the defense ministry,” Jiménez added.
Movilh has called for the immediate resignation of the commander of the army’s first division, Cristián Chateau who signed the document.
Chateau told La Nación that the document was “already abolished” and “currently not valid anymore due to the recently imposed anti-discrimination law.”
“The meaning of the document was to exclude the obligation of having to join the military service if homosexuals and other mentioned groups did not wish to,” he said.
No reports yet as to whether Chateau will resign or face disciplinary action.
For further information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Uproar over Chile army discrimination – 8 September 2012
Bio Bio Nacional – Instructivo del Ejército recomienda no admitir a homosexuales, pobres y testigos de Jehová – 7 September 2012
Movilh Website – Movilh espera que investigación del Ejército termine con destitución de comandante homófobo – 7 September 2012
Santiago Times – Document suggests homosexual exclusion in Chilean army – 7 September 2012
The Washington Post – Chile criticizes army chief who says gays, poor people, Jehovah’s Witnesses are morally unfit – 7 September 2012