This year Rapa Nui celebrates half a century since the island territory was officially recognized as part of Chile through the Easter Act. Among the many tributes and scheduled activities a time capsule which will keep history and cultural symbols, family letters and messages of President Bachelet and former Presidents Frei and Piñera was buried. The capsule made of steel and wood will be opened in 2066 by future generations.
Easter Island and the Chilean sovereignty
The island territory was annexed to Chile in 1888; however the Rapa Nui ethnic group had to wait about 80 years for it to be formalized administratively. Almost 8 decades in which the inhabitants of Easter Island had no identity card, court or municipality. During the government of President Eduardo Frei Montalva, on March 1st 1966 Law No. 16,441 was published in the Official State Gazette previously approved by the Congress on February 22nd the same year. This law joined the islanders to the Chilean territorial organization back then creating the department of Easter Island under the province of Valparaiso. This law brought many benefits to the community, as well as some loopholes that today quietly threaten the sense of security that has always characterized this beautiful place
Law 16,441 also known as Easter Act granted voting rights to the islanders finally recognizing full civil rights. At that time Rapa Nui had special needs, requirements and experiences; therefore, in order to adapt the laws applied in Chile to the idiosyncrasy of the island the application of the law had to be different from the rest of the country. An identical criminal model to Chile could not have been imposed in in a community where the vast majority of its members did not speak Spanish in such a short time. This law provides a number of articles including number 13 and number 14 which basically allows that perpetrators of a variety of crimes can reduce the punishment and increase their penitentiary benefits.
Easter Act does not protect the victims
In the offenses referred to in the aforementioned articles committed in the island the lower penalty shall be imposed to. At least those offenses specified by the law which means in serious crimes the sentence is lowered immediately in one degree. For instance: a person who is convicted of a felony anywhere in the country is punished with a sentence of five years and one day. In Easter Island when applying this Act the same felony is punished with a sentence of three years and one day. This punishment is given to those who were born in the island regardless of whether or not they are part of the ethnic group and also in cases where the offense is committed within the island territory.
To conclude together both laws cause the inhabitants accused of committing crimes in Easter Island do not effectively serve the prison service. According to data provided by Chilean Penitentiary System both items are used today and sometimes have been used in more than one crime to avoid justice. These two articles of Law 16,441 hold a system that benefits criminals above the protection it should pay the same law to victims.