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Montevideo, June 10th 2023 - 07:52 UTC



Crisis in Uruguayan Police after Lacalle Pou dismissed the entire leadership amid corruption cases

Wednesday, February 8th 2023 - 23:46 UTC
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Jorge Berriel, former deputy executive director of the National Police, next to Lacalle Pou. Photo: Presidency Jorge Berriel, former deputy executive director of the National Police, next to Lacalle Pou. Photo: Presidency
Former director of the National Police, Diego Fernández, with former Minister of the Interior, Jorge Larrañaga. Photo: Presidency Former director of the National Police, Diego Fernández, with former Minister of the Interior, Jorge Larrañaga. Photo: Presidency

The removal of the police leadership by order of the President of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, generated the biggest crisis in this force so far in this government. The head of state replaced the National Police Director, Diego Fernández, and the Executive Subdirector of Police, Jorge Berriel, it was reported late Tuesday.

The resolution taken yesterday by the government was not improvised, but was allegedly the result of an analysis process by the Presidency and the Ministry of the Interior after critics from the opposition in response to multiple corruption cases.

For some time now, there had been a consensus that the work since March 2020 had generated a natural “wear and tear” of management for Fernández and the police leadership, to which was added the impact of the indictment at the end of September of the former head of presidential security, Alejandro Astesiano, who had several communications with police leaders asking for various favors from Berriel and others.

The implications of this and the news that emerged since then about this case had a hard impact on the Police. Because even though Fernández has not been involved in the case so far, the former National Subdirector of Police, Héctor Ferreira - who was mentioned in several chats with the former presidential guard and who resigned for this on December 6 - and Berriel are both directly implicated and are being investigated by the 12th Turn Flagrance prosecutor, Gabriela Fossati. They are being investigated for their contacts with Astesiano, potential abuse of power and alleged abuse of functions.

According to the chats in the possession of the Prosecution, Ferreira and Berriel provided police support to Astesiano to solve his personal problems. And on one occasion, Ferreira arranged a meeting between Astesiano and the General Director of Company Regulation, Henry de León, for a fine that a non-licensed company owned by the former guard had received. Ferreira ordered De León to receive Astesiano even though he was on leave.

End of an era Fernández also felt that he had completed a cycle, El País informed. In recent times, he has communicated that he was “tired” and had “wanted” to step aside.

And, in fact, as part of the same set of decisions, in recent weeks he was directly responsible for communicating the news of the changes to several of the police leaders who will now have new assignments.

In the ruling party, there were also those who understood that Fernández's characteristics were favorable for the beginning of the new government, when the gift of command and authority - what the late Minister Jorge Larrañaga sought to impart - and what is vaguely referred to as “old school”, were necessary components to produce a quick political and moralizing effect on the uniformed officers, but that in the current stage, a different type of leadership was needed.

According to an audio that went viral on Wednesday, in a Whatsapp group in which all the police chiefs and national directors of that force are members, Fernandez reported there that he had been “officially” removed from his position “because the president of the Republic has ordered it.” Shortly after, in another chat, Berriel added to Fernandez's message and confirmed that he was “relieved as deputy director” and that he accompanies the words of the national director. “We will talk later and thank you very much for the services rendered”, ends the brief message.

Former Police Executive Director, charged

The prosecutor in charge of the cases involving Astesiano, Gabriela Fossati, will charge the former deputy executive director of the National Police, Jorge Berriel, next Friday.

The appointment was requested on February 6, according to information from the Prosecutor's Office. The crimes that Berriel will be accused of were not brought forward by prosecutor Fossati, who has elements against the ex-police chief, Montevideo Portal reported.

Berriel was recently dismissed by the Ministry of Interior, together with Fernández.

In a conference given by Minister Luis Alberto Heber on Wednesday, he assured that the changes in the leadership of the portfolio “have nothing to do with other matters”, in reference to the Astesiano case.

Categories: Politics, Uruguay.

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