American-Born White Supremacist Living In Chile Remanded in Custody After Shooting at Protesters

A U.S.-born conservative living in Chile was charged with attempted murder after he shot into a crowd of protesters on November 10. The 56-year-old, who struck a man in the thigh, was remanded in custody in the seaside city of Viña Del Mar, authorities announced.

John Cobin fired “three or four” shots during protests along the waterfront in Reñaca, local authorities said. Jorge Martínez, the region’s governor, told local media that one of the bullets struck a 33-year-old man in the thigh, sending him to the hospital, Reuters reported. Local broadcaster Chilevision reported that the man is expected to survive his injury.

Cobin, a California economist, admitted to repeatedly firing into a crowd in a video posted on YouTube shortly before his arrest. He acknowledged he injured a man but maintained he did nothing wrong.

“I did not do anything wrong,” Cobin said in the video, according to The Washington Post. “It was very dangerous, very scary time for me. Thankfully, I had my gun to be able to defend myself.”

Video of the incident shows Cobin speeding through a crowd of protesters with his pickup truck. Chilevision said the shooting affected the more than 5,000 demonstrators peacefully protesting at the beachside area of Reñaca.

Corbin claims that he took out his gun and loaded it when a mob of protesters began banging against his pickup truck. He says he started firing at protesters to protect himself against the possibility of assault.

Cobin was arrested on November 10 and remanded in custody the following day by a court in \ Viña Del Mar.

“We will not tolerate that anyone, regardless of their condition or belief, use firearms to impose their ideas,” Martínez said in a statement.

Who Is John Cobin? Cobin, a professor with a doctorate in public policy, moved to Chile with his family in 1996. The self-proclaimed lover of neoliberalism was a business owner and professor at Andrés Bello National University. Before moving to Chile, he was part of a neo-Confederate hate group called the League of the South, according to The Washington Post.

In 2006, Cobin failed to win a U.S. congressional seat in South Carolina as a libertarian. Days before the election, he was arrested on domestic abuse charges. An arrest report accused Cobin of pushing and shoving his estranged wife and causing bruising, WIS TV reported.

Once in Chile, he hosted a talk radio show called “Red Hot Chile” and married a Chilean woman. He has referred to himself as the “biggest neoliberal in the entire country.” In 2012, Cobin and three other Americans established a libertarian compound called Galt’s Gulch. He later left the compound and founded a separate libertarian compound called Freedom Orchard.

In a 2014 profile by Mother Jones, Cobin said that American liberals were not welcome at his sustainable farm and libertarian compound. “You’ve already messed up your country,” Cobin told the publication. “We don’t need you.”

Cobin also expressed admiration for Chile’s former military dictator, General Augusto Pinochet. In various columns, Cobin has claimed: “Pinochet was a hero in terms of eliminating communism.” Pinochet, who staged a military coup on September 11, 1973, inflicted human rights violations on thousands of Chileans.

Cobin has been described as a white supremacist, a description he vehemently denies, Chilevision reported.

A State Department spokesperson told The North Star that Cobin is not a U.S. citizen.

Gun Laws in Chile Unlike in the U.S., gun ownership is not a constitutional right. Residents over the age of 18 are permitted to own a firearm, but must first adhere to strict guidelines and regulations. According to Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), gun owners in Chile must register a home address with the national firearm authority, receive psychiatric approval and pass an exam on the proper use and maintenance of weapons. A standard permit allows individuals to own up to two guns.

Anyone who wants to own more than two guns must apply for another license and provide justification for owning more than two. AS/COA reported that it is illegal to carry a weapon out of a registered home unless that person has a carry permit, which requires additional psychiatric approval. It is also against the law for Chileans civilians to own a semi-automatic gun.

Chilean Protests Fast Facts

  • Unrest erupted in mid-October as student-led strikes against a hike in metro fares quickly turned into protests over economic inequality. Demonstrators have called on President Sebastian Piñera to resign.

  • Piñera has not stepped down, but announced on October 29 that eight members of his cabinet would be replaced, the BBC reported. On November 10, Piñera agreed to a new constitution.

  • At least 23 people have died since the protests began and more than 2,000 have been hospitalized. Chilean police have blinded protesters by firing pellets and rubber bullets into their eyes, The New York Times reported.

  • The National Institute for Human Rights reported receiving more than 2,800 reports of police beatings, threats, rapes and other forms of sexual violence, verbal and physical abuse and simulated executions, according to The New York Times.

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About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia, Australia and the Americas.