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Ministry of Defense

The armed forces are constitutionally subordinate to the President through an appointed Minister of Defense but enjoy a large degree of legal autonomy. Since the transition to civilian government in 1990 the president has had little actual control over the military, and the Ministry of Defense has lacked any effective control of the services and the Carabineros. Most notably, the President must have the concurrence of the National Security Council [Cosena] to remove service chiefs.

The positions of the minister of defense and the subsecretaries remained effectively unchanged under the Aylwin government. However, the Subsecretariat of the Carabineros and the Subsecretariat of Investigations are subordinate to the minister of defense rather than to the minister of interior, as was formerly the case. However, new laws call for the Ministry of Interior to coordinate the actions of the security forces. The Carabineros (the uniformed national police) have primary responsibility for public order and safety and border security. The civilian Investigations Police are responsible for criminal investigations and immigration control. Both organizations--although formally under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, which determines their budget--are under operational control of the Ministry of Interior. Some alleged perpetrators of human rights abuses during the military regime remain on active duty in the army.

In addition to Cosena, two other bodies, whose functions are specifically limited to the advisory level, deal with matters of national defense and security: the Politico-Strategic Advisory Council (Consejo Asesor Político-Estratégico--CAPE) and the Internal Security Advisory Council (Consejo Asesor de Seguridad Interior--CASI). CAPE consists of six military and four civilian members and is entrusted with long-range planning of the defense and external security of the state. CASI, which consists of the minister of interior and seven military members, deals with internal security planning.

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Created by John Pike
Updated Friday, September 11, 1998 6:07:55 AM