SANTIAGO – A group of people who have received eye injuries from shotgun pellets fired by Chilean security forces on Thursday announced that they will soon file a complaint against President Sebastian Piñera, whom they blame for being the person “directly responsible for the human rights violations” that have allegedly occurred during the ongoing social unrest.
“We want to have justice done and for those who caused the eye injuries not to retain impunity, so we’re going to their top leader, Piñera,” the spokesperson for the recently founded Coordinator for Eye Trauma Victims, Marta Valdes, told EFE during a peaceful demonstration in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago.
“Although we’ve spent weeks asking for an end to the use of shotgun pellets, (security forces are) still using the same methods today and every time the president makes announcements he calls for more repression,” said Valdes, whose son was hit in the left eye by a tear gas canister fired by police.
According to the latest report by the state-run National Institute for Human Rights (INDH), a total of 232 people have suffered eye injuries since Oct. 18, when the biggest demonstrations since the return of democracy to Chile in 1990 began.
The INDH reported Wednesday that it presented a complaint for attempted murder against the Carabineros (Chile’s militarized police) for firing a tear gas canister at a female bystander, who ended up being completely blinded.
This is the second person to completely lose their eyesight due to police actions during the social unrest in Chile, after on Tuesday young Gustavo Gatica was blinded by shotgun pellets that hit him in the face during a demonstration.
The latest victim, Fabiola Campillai, 36, was hit by the tear gas canister on Tuesday as she was waiting for a bus to go to her night job in Santiago.
Rafael Zambrano suffered a cut 20 cm (7.9 inches) long on his face when Carabineros fired a water cannon at protester on Plaza Italia, the epicenter of the demonstrations and, although he did not fully lose his sight, he will have to wear glasses for distance vision for the rest of his life.
“Now we’re going to the marches with more sorrow, but also with more strength,” the young man told EFE during the demonstration in front of La Moneda.
What began as a call by Chilean students to protest against the government’s hike in metro fares morphed into an unprecedented social uprising, where demonstrators are demanding a fairer economic model and during which at least 23 people – five of them supposedly at the hands of security forces – have died and thousands have been injured.
Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said that Chilean security forces have used excessive force and have violated the demonstrators’ human rights during the protests.