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Under the 1980 constitution, the police are referred to as the Forces of Order and Public Security, their role being defined as the maintenance of law and order. There are two separate law enforcement forces: the Carabineros and the Investigations Police. The Carabineros, Chile's uniformed national police, have primary responsibility for public order and safety, crime control, and border security. Although formally under the administrative jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, the Carabineros are under the operational control of the Ministry of Interior. The Carabineros forms a potential reserve for the army and has a paramilitary organization. The Carabineros, a national, 31,000-member paramilitary police force, is organized into three main zones-- Northern, Central, and Southern--with marine and air sections. In addition to law enforcement and traffic management, Carabineros is engaged in narcotics suppression, border control, and counterterrorism.

The Carabineras created a new countersubversive intelligence body in May 1990, the Directorate of Carabineros Political Intelligence (Dirección de Inteligencia de Carabineros--Dipolcar). Its previous unit was implicated in human rights violations. In the early 1990s Italy and Spain pledged to help Aylwin government finance and train civilian-based security force capable of combatting terrorist threat.

Although the "use of illegal pressure" is forbidden, there continue to be mistreatment and torture by some Carabinero units. The Constitution allows civilian and military courts to order detention for up to 5 days without arraignment and extend the detention for up to 10 days for suspected terrorist acts. By law, detainees are to be provided 30 minutes of immediate and daily access to a lawyer (although not in private) and to a doctor to verify their physical condition. The law does not permit a judge to deny such access. With few exceptions, this practice appeared to be observed by police authorities.

Service in the Carabineros is voluntary, and admission standards are high. Applicants are required to have completed secondary school and to have passed exacting physical examinations and psychological tests. A highly professional organization, the Carabineros have enjoyed a prestige and universal respect that are almost unique among Latin American police forces. The force's principal problem at the beginning of the 1990s was the lack of adequate resources to combat crime. Although budget appropriations for the Carabineros had risen steadily in the early 1990s (from US$37 million in 1990 to US$78 million in 1993), low pay and even inadequate clothing were a source of discontent within the ranks. The force has its own cadet, NCO, and staff officer schools, in addition to a specialists' training center, all of which are located in Los Cerrillos, Santiago.


During the colonial period, there existed a fifty-man police unit known as the Queen's Dragoons, which was responsible for law enforcement in the Santiago area. This force changed its name to Dragons of Chile (Dragones de Chile) in the early years of the republic and, by 1850, had increased in strength to 300. It was subsequently incorporated into the army as a cavalry regiment. By that time, civil police forces had also been set up in the major population centers. In 1881 the Rural Police Law created a separate rural police force in each province, and six years later each municipality was authorized to set up its own local police force.

In 1902 four of the army's seven cavalry regiments were ordered to detach a squadron apiece to form a new entity to be known as the Border Police (Gendarmes de la Frontera) and to be engaged primarily in the suppression of banditry in the less developed regions of the country. Despite being administratively and operationally subordinate to the Ministry of Interior, this unit remained ultimately under the jurisdiction of the minister of war. Five years later, it acquired a larger establishment and changed its name to the Carabineros Regiment (Regimiento de Carabineros).

Although still lacking a formal permanent institutional existence, in 1909 the Carabineros established an Institute of Instruction and Education, which admitted its first class of police cadets in August of that year. Five years later, the responsibilities of the force were extended to railroad security. Finally, in 1919, the force acquired a formal independent existence under the Ministry of Interior, and its title was changed again to the Carabineros Corps (Cuerpo de Carabineros). Six years later, by which time the corps consisted of 204 officers and 3,760 enlisted personnel, the Carabineros acquired a new organization that combined their various independent squadrons into five Rural Service Regiments, together with a Railway Regiment, Training Regiment, and Customs Squadron, the latter based at Valparaíso.

The strength, resources, and qualities of the various municipal and rural police forces varied enormously. In 1924, in an effort to provide a degree of uniformity, the country was divided into five police zones, with their headquarters at Antofagasta, Valparaíso, Santiago, Talca, and Concepción. The same law divided the police functionally into three divisions: the Public Order Division, entrusted with general peacekeeping on a relatively passive level; the Security Division, with a role of active law enforcement; and the Identification Division, which embraced record keeping and general crime detection. This arrangement provided for the coordination of the activities of the various existing law enforcement agencies, on a zonal basis, with the General Directorate of Police (Dirección General de Policía) at the national level. At that time, in the mid-1920s, the various police forces numbered 728 officers and 8,628 enlisted personnel.

Although now downgraded in importance, the provinces and the municipalities continued to maintain their individual police forces. Only the municipal police of Santiago and Valparaíso seem to have been effective, however, and in 1927 all law enforcement agencies were incorporated in a single national force, the Carabineros of Chile. The force had a total strength of 1,123 officers and 15,420 enlisted personnel in 1929.

In 1993 the Carabineros numbered 31,000, including officers, noncommissioned officers (NCOs), and a significant women's element. Although normally under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior, the Carabineros were put under the Ministry of Defense during the period of national emergency following the overthrow of the Allende regime. Despite the return of civilian government in 1990, the Carabineros remain subordinate to the Ministry of Defense, but their operations are coordinated by the Ministry of Interior. The Aylwin administration authorized an increase in strength of 1,100 annually over the 1991-94 period.


The Carabineros are commanded by a director general and organized geographically into three main zones--the Northern Zone, the Central Zone, and the Southern Zone. Each of these zones is in turn subdivided into prefectures (prefecturas), subprefectures (subprefecturas), commissariats (comisarías), subcommissariats (subcomisarías), lieutenancies (tenencias), reserves (retenes), and outposts (puestos avanzados).

The Carabineros also include marine and air sections. The Air Police, which ranks as a separate prefecture, dates from 1946, when it was formed with a single Aeronca Champion aircraft. The Air Police acquired its first helicopter in 1968; by 1993 its inventory of helicopters had increased to fourteen.

Operationally, the Carabineros are divided into seventeen departments: analysis and evaluation, armaments and munitions, borders and boundaries, civic action, data processing, drug control and prevention of offenses, finance, forestry, internal security, legal, minors, police services, public relations, social action, supply, traffic control, and transport. In addition to their normal law enforcement and allied functions, the Carabineros perform extensive civic action, including the provision of medical and dental services to the populations of the less developed regions of the country and the protection of forests and wildlife. The Carabineros are also responsible for customs control and the Presidential Guard. Separate prefectures deal with the Air Police, the Radio Patrol, and the Special Forces.

The largest single concentration of Carabineros is in Santiago, where apart from headquarters and administrative personnel, the schools, and the Presidential Guard, there are five geographical prefectures: the Central Prefecture, North Prefecture, South Prefecture, East Prefecture, and West Prefecture. These are in turn subdivided into twenty-six territorial and nine operational commissariats.

Chile long remained relatively unaffected either by drug trafficking or by extensive drug abuse. Some expansion, both of drug trafficking and of narcotics abuse, occurred during the late 1960s and early 1970s, reflecting an international trend. By the early 1970s, Chile had become an important regional center for cocaine processing. The problem had become sufficiently acute to occasion the passage of the country's first antinarcotics law by Allende's Popular Unity government early in 1973. Later that year, the military government formed a special narcotics unit within the Caribineros and began a big crackdown. This was highly effective, bringing the narcotics problem under control within a year. The Carabineros also pioneered the introduction of antinarcoticsoriented , youth education programs. A pilot project was set up in 1976, eight years before any comparable program was initiated in the United States. Toward the end of the period of military rule, a new form of drug-related crime was noted in the northern Chilean provinces adjoining the Bolivian and Peruvian frontiers: the illicit exporting to Peru and Bolivia of chemicals used in the processing of cocaine.

Since the early 1980s, drug trafficking has been growing in Chile. The country has become more prone to drug trafficking not only because of its geographic configuration and location, bordering on the world's two leading producers of coca--Peru and Bolivia--but also because of its economic stability. With its openmarket economy and bank-secrecy laws, Chile is an attractive haven for money laundering. A number of drug traffickers who were expelled by the military regime after the 1973 coup cultivated contacts with drug-trafficking groups while living in exile in the United States and Europe. On returning to Chile to reside, these traffickers, acting as finance men and heads of operations, profited from their international contacts. Chile served as a good transit country also because of its booming export activities. In mid-1992 an operational director of the Carabineros reported that money obtained through drug trafficking was being laundered through the construction industry in central Chile and the fishing industry in the far south.

In order to enhance the country's antidrug capabilities, the Aylwin government signed several antidrug agreements in 1992, including one with Italy in October (which also included antiterrorist cooperation) and one with Bolivia in November. Chile's most serious drug-related problems by 1992 reportedly involved transit through the country along the northern corridor to Arica. In early 1993, a new cocaine/cocaine paste drug route reportedly came from Bolivia through the Azapa Valley, an area with a sizable Bolivian and Peruvian population located to the east of the city of Arica. At that time, the Investigations Police began implementing a new drug enforcement plan, with the aid of a turbo Cessna 206 for patrolling the area along the Bolivian and Peruvian borders, in coordination with motor vehicles and twenty powerful all-terrain Cagiva motorcycles, donated by Italy.

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