Conflicts & War

People blinded by Chilean cops want street honoring the force renamed

Santiago, Dec 30 (EFE).- Two of the most prominent victims of violence by Chile’s militarized Carabineros police force during the 2019 uprising in the Andean nation appealed Thursday to the Santiago city government to change the name of a street from Carabineros de Chile to Derechos Humanos (Human Rights).

“It’s a small reparation for the victims, for the families of the comrades who no longer exist today and who died here,” Senator-elect Fabiola Campillai said alongside activist Gustavo Gatica.

Both are among the 460 people, according to Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights, who suffered serious eye injuries due to the actions of police in putting down protests.

Gatica and Campillai held a press conference on Carabineros de Chile street near Plaza Italia, the epicenter of what began as a protest against a small metro fare hike but quickly turned into a movement that brought 1.2 million people – more than 5 percent of the Chilean population – into the heart of Santiago on Oct. 25, 2019.

Some 30 people died and thousands more were injured in the initial wave of the largest mobilizations Chile has witnessed since the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Prosecutors are pursuing 3,072 probes into accusations of human rights violations by the Carabineros over the course of the uprising, but only 136 officers have been formally charged.

The denunciation of the Carabineros by domestic critics was echoed by the United Nations and Amnesty International, as images of protesters with their eyes left bloody by rubber bullets and the impact of tear-gas canisters made their way around the world.

“It is a street with much pain, which we want to begin to heal and better to change the name so it no longer represents all these violators of human rights who continue shooting us up to the present day,” the senator-elect said Thursday.

Campillai lost her vision, taste and sense of smell after being struck in the face by a tear-gas canister while on her way to work on Nov. 26, 2019.

The experience spurred Campillai to enter public life and she will represent Santiago in the Senate beginning next March.

Gatica, who was blinded by a volley of rubber bullets in a Nov. 8, 2019, incident on Carabineros de Chile street, called on authorities to speed up the judicial process.

“My case is not the only one. For the majority of the comrades who suffered eye trauma they haven’t have charged the persons who shot them,” he said.

The demand for a more equitable economic model in a country where the richest 1 percent control more than a quarter of national wealth fueled calls for a new constitution to replace the one Pinochet imposed in 1980, which laid the basis for privatization of health care, water, education and pensions.

Chileans voted overwhelmingly in October 2020 to convene a constitutional convention and the delegates chosen in a subsequent ballot got down to work five months ago.

One of the proposals under discussion is to dissolve the Carabineros. EFE mmm/dr

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