Alternativa Latinoamericana
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Alberta, Noviembre/November 2009
ALTERNATIVA Latinoamericana
Fair "almost socialist" Chile:
El Cisarro, his friends and the State.
Too focused on the 74% public support
opinion polls show, President Bachelet fails to see
what is taking place down below -where a bad
smell tarnishes the stats of her "spotless"
macroeconomy. Down there, a gang of grade four
children are making powerful efforts to "contribute
to the management of chilean national economy"
-resolving the unfair distribution of income by
their own hand.
In October 2008 "el Cisarro" was detained
after assaulting a Japanese entrepreneur in a
well to do neighbourhood. It was the beginning of
the telling of the story of this child who shares his
views on politics and the economy kicking the
microphones and cameras of the journalists
waiting for him at the door of the police stations.
His father just came out of prison himself; his
mother, a diabetic with mental health issues, lives
of the charity of a few people and the proceeds of
a small kiosk she has at home. Past April she was
processed for drug trafficking and is on
probation. Four of her children have been
detained for a number of offences, two of the
minors live in specialized centers.
Cisarro's best friend are "el Garra, el Potito
Rico, el Coca Cola Chico, el Juanito Pistolas, el
Gorila, el Ceja y el Loquin". These last two were
at the head of a "commando" that liberated el
Cisarro after he was detained driving a stolen car.
Once the operation was completed they
celebrated together drinking beer.
Since then, the alarms of our system have
not stopped ringing. The authorities, informed by
the newspapers and TV, have come to realize
that a ghost is roaming the shantytowns of Gran
Santiago and some of the other most important
Chilean cities -those where the growth statistics
never get, and, if anything, vouchers are
provided like a "sacred solution" to the drama of
extreme poverty.
Lovingly, the Subsecretary of Carabineros
(chilean police) recognized the need for
"specialists" in dealing with el Cisarro's team.
Enthusiastically, the Subsecretary has proposed
that Carabineros, SENAME (National Service of
Minors) and the Ministry of Interior create
together a pilot plan to deal with this
phenomenon. The honesty shown by institutions
responsible for the public order, security and
prisons, is impressiveñ they are the ones
discussing plans to deal with the drama of
children swallowed by delinquency.
A State without Policies
As if children gangs, and circumstances
connected to their appearance, were exclusive
competence of these institutions, all the others
(Housing, Culture, Education, Health,
Environment, Sports, Economy) have nothing to
say. The truth is, that there are no state policies
to protect children (barely weaned) from
becoming delinquent. "The State has no policy to
deal with these children," said Alicia del Basto,
president of AFUSE (organizing SENAME
workers). "There is no law in dealing with cases
such as el Cisarro´s,f there are no programs in
Chile and children like this are cast adrift," she
adds. "We have no doctors in our centers. The
ones who work for us do it for limited hours.
There are no psychiatrist or other specialists.
They do not work for us because they make
much more in the private sector," she argues.
"SENAME had, in its beginnings, a very
marked technical approach. But, like many public
services in the last few years it became politicized
by having people with little knowledge in positions
where specialists were needed." She believes
that a solution to cases like these (delinquent
children) is expensiveñ the focus of the Ministry of
Finance is not in keeping with the nature of these
problems. Las Acacias center where cases like el
Cisarro used to go, for example, is now closed -
destined to deal with the problems of space
created thanks to the Law of Criminal Adolescent
Responsibility (which increased the number of
children detained by lowering the age at which
children are responsible for crimes). The same
happened to a home in Iquique that used to deal
with children like these. The children that have
becomes news, Del Basto said, are children who
would have been there. She believest the goal of
some of the
made, including
the Law of
Responsibility, is
to resolve the
created (but)
without truly
finding solutions.
Thus, children
with some degree
of risk or
involvement with the Law arrive at SENAME.
The question of how is it possible that a child
who barely reaches 8 years of age could be such
an "advanced delinquent" (rather, for example, of
being attending school as the State requires),
however, needs to be asked. "In the case of
these children, the entire educational system
fails," says Loreto Munoz, a teacher and leader of
the National College of Teachers. "School should
be a step in helping children coming from
dysfunctional families with high social risk, drug
consumption and delinquent behaviours."
Changing behavior, explains Muñoz, is
responsibility of the educational system. But:
"teachers are not prepared properly for this type
of work. The State needs to provide appropriate
formation. There are no criteria in place even to
identify cases as Cisarro's and his friends so
specialists could be involved in helping them.
Once teachers are prepared to identify these
children, a network to deal with them, by providing
integral, interdisciplinary and permanent
treatment needs to be put in place."
"The current system of public education has
a shortage of specialized professionals in
psychology, psyquiatry and social work. Thus, for
children like these to be ignored a chain of events
has taken place within the educational system: a
teacher has failed to identify early the problematic
behaviour so as to send the child to a differential
educator who will produce a psycho-pedagogical
report and, in turn, refer the child to a
neurologist, psychologist and social worker. This
should be the synthesis of integrated diagnosis
and proper treatment. El Cisarro is the result of a
failure by the state in all this," said Loreto Muñoz.
Within Latin America
The phenomenon of delinquent young
children competing with older ones, however, is
not limited to Chile. According to UNICEF, this
phenomenon has increased at very rapid rate
during the last few years in Latin America. The
common denominator for delinquent children,
said UNICEF, is poverty and marginalization
together with lack of love, understanding,
attention and care by their parents (neglect).
Children who are barely beyond crawling feel
they need to carry a gun at their waist to survive.
They are not the result of bad luck or destiny.
They are the children of failure and neglect.
Children resulting from life in the ghettos that
surround our capitals -where the State is present
only to repress people daily (something our
television channels work very hard at showing:
poor people being hunted, like in true safaries,
inside the shantytowns). It is also the result of a
true media Apartheid, one that creates a stigma
for anybody living in shantytowns and poor areas.
According to Doris Cooper, criminologist (La
Nacion, October 2, 2005), the economic model is
the main cause of delinquency -and we see it
increase particularly at times of economic crisis
and/or hardship. She mentions the case of
Concepcion, the city with highest number of
minors incarcerated, and connects it with the
crisis of carbon mining.
According to Cooper,
delinquent careers start
early, at age 6, initially they
are a method of
subsistence when parents
become unemployed.
Cooper believes
prison is not a solution.
"They can fill Chile and
America with jails but there
will be no effect on the
creation of delinquency,
because children living in
extreme poverty will
continue to be born."
Reforming the criminal law
regarding adolescents is
not going to have the
impact expected: "entering
the world of crime doesn't
take place at
adolescence...but at a
much earlier age". She
concludes, "at most there
will be children in jail at age 14."
The Catholic church has denounced the
obvious, that SOCIAL INEQUALITY (in Chile) is a
SCANDAL: the 10 per cent richest makes 31
times what the 10 per cent poorest, and 3 out of
4 chileans earns less than 170 thousand pesos
(U$S 307). Wealth is extremely concentrated
(and in the same "suspicious hands") and it
decides who is or is not poor. And POOR, are
only those making less than 47 thousand pesos
in the city (almost U$S 85) or 32 thousands pesos
in rural areas (almost U$S 58).
The United Nations Development Program
(UNDP) 2005 report notes: "Inequity in income
distribution attempts against Equity of
Opportunities...making it more difficult to
overcome poverty. Out of tune (income and
distribution) is experienced by important sectors
of the population, who react by legitimizing
revenge and illegal behaviour."
In Latin America there have been some
"imaginative solutions" implemented to diminish
the effect of the "revenge" of poor children. For
example: the Death Squads of Brazil killed
hundreds of children to avoid that their presence
made their beautiful beaches look "ugly" -and to
ensure the income of businesses was not
affected by the presence of poor children. A
doctor has proposed a solution In Chile: a dosis
of Clozapine, an antipsychotic drug used to treat
patients affected by schizophrenia, that would
reduce the aggressive impulses -the doctors call
it "severe emotional dysregulation syndrome."
Treating children who are
poor as if they were mentally ill
Gladys Corral, persident of the College of
Nurses in Chile, with years of experience in
mental health, said: "This drug is a last
generation drug used in high complexity
psychiatric treatment." Using this type of drugs on
a 10 year old kid who does not suffer from the
psychiatric illness is an aberration: "It will produce
secondary effects, like organic alterations, and
patients treated with this drug need to be under
ongoing and specialized surveillance that our
system cannot provide for them."
She pointed, because it called her
attention, that the nurse who treated el
Cisarro while in hospital had no difficulty
dealing with him: "It was enough that she
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