On Sunday afternoon yet another explosive device was set off in Santiago. A homemade bomb exploded at 3pm near the main entrance of a BBVA bank branch in Las Condes, an upper class Santiago borough.
There were no injuries, but the explosion shattered windows and caused structural damage to the bank. The explosion was heard throughout the neighborhood and caused glass to shatter in a nearby pharmacy.
Pilar Bezanilla was driving in the area when a gray car with no plates pulled up behind her and honked the horn several times.
“I let him go by, because I thought it was an emergency,” said Bezanilla. “Then I see this man, maybe 35 years old, stop at the bank and leave something there…The bomb went off 40 seconds later. I heard a loud explosion and saw a curtain of black smoke.”
Police don’t know who the man in the gray car is and have found no clue that would point to his identity. When a neighbor reported another possible bomb, police and firefighters combed the area for several hours. No bomb was found.
No group has claimed responsibility for the bombing. But a piece of paper later found on the scene leads police to think an anarchist group responsible. The message read, “Freedom for prisoners of the Chilean State! The rebel fire grows against the State and Capitalism!”
Sunday’s incident is the latest in a string of unsolved bombings and bomb threats in the Santiago Metropolitan area, including the November 3rd bomb that left six injured at the posh Marriott Hotel (ST, Nov. 4).
Anarchist group Banda Dinamitera Efraín Plaza Olmedo claimed responsibility for the Marriott bombing, saying the hotel was duly warned of the attack. The “Dynamite Gang” takes its name from Efraín Plaza Olmedo, a self-proclaimed anarchist who shot and killed two upper class Santiago youths in 1912.
Chile has seen a sharp increase in bombings, many claimed by anti-social or anarchist groups, since 2006. In January of this year the government stepped up pressure to prosecute those responsible by appointing District Attorney Xavier Armendáriz as a special prosecutor in charge of Metropolitan region bombings. Armendáriz joined District Attorney Francisco Jacir, who was already investigating bombings.
Armendáriz’s appointment notwithstanding, not much has changed. Even before this latest incident, the government has been “frustrated” in its investigations into some 60 bombings in Metropolitan region, according to Interior Ministry Undersecretary Patricio Rosende.
“We hope that police investigations will lead in short time to concrete judicial results,” said Rosende earlier this month. He added the investigations had been going on for a long time and he’d like to see “better results than we’ve had till now, when only a couple of people have been officially charged.”
Responding to the criticism in Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper, Armendáriz deflected responsibility to the police, saying district attorneys only bring cases to court based on police investigations.
“The law allows us to investigate cases ourselves, but the results of the investigation depend on the police,” he said. “Each time we’ve had evidence, as the law requires, to prosecute these and other cases, we’ve done it. If we haven’t prosecuted other cases, it’s because we don’t have the evidence to do so.”