SANTIAGO – The Interamerican Human Rights Commission (CIDH) gathered in Quito, Ecuador, to analyze and discuss what they found in Chile. They have been observing recent protests here and they roundly condemned the use of live ammunition and rubber bullets to suppress crowds. They also rejected the repressive focus of the Piñera administration’s recent measures to tackle the crisis, as well as his inability to ensure the safety of his own people.
In late October, the Interamerican Human Rights Commission (CIDH) arrived in Chile, and, since then, they have been observing protests, investigating alleged human rights violations, and analyzing the Chilean crisis.
On Nov. 11, they gathered in Quito, Ecuador to present their conclusions on possible human rights violations in Chile. The CIDH, the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), and Chilean government representatives organized a public audience, and CIDH members not only stated that allegations of extreme violence against citizens were true, but that they were also being systematically denied by political authorities.
CIDH Childhood Defender Patricia Muñoz took the lead, criticizing police violence and misconduct, referring to the use of both regular and rubber bullets, and the great number of people injured by “non-lethal weapons.”
“Rubber bullets are not being used in violent situations or as active reaction [to violence], but indiscriminately against people that do no harm to police. … I find even less reasonable that the Chilean government insists on talking about material damage without making a single reflection on the human rights of all the victims,” Muñoz said, as reported by CNN Chile.
Executive Director of Amnesty International Ana Piquer echoed Muñoz: “What is happening in Chile is tragic. In three weeks, the government has made excessive use of force, often unnecessarily, against mainly peaceful protesters and passersby. We want to make it very clear: we are not talking about isolated events, the number of cases is running into thousands and they are occurring throughout practically the entire country,” she said, according to Amnesty.org.
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🗣️ #ChileViolatesHumanRights Medical College (COLMED) Human Rights president Enrique Morales rejected the use of such ammunition against protesters. “Police are under government’s authority, … [for them] not to have listened to COLMED’s warnings is unacceptable,” says Morales.
Chilean Government in Denial
According to Cooperativa, the government focused its arguments and explanations on the circumstances that led President Sebastián Piñera to declare states of emergency—the period during which most of the alleged human rights violations started.
According to the Chilean government, the states of emergency and the subsequent actions by the police and military were necessary and legitimate given the destruction, arson, and other violent acts reported the first days of protests.
Interior Minister assistant lawyer Mijail Bonito was also first to deny the use of metal ammunition: “Chilean police forces do not use steel bullets. We will give you all purchase receipts and all rubber bullet analyses … [But] to establish that such ammunition belongs to police forces is not applicable,” he said, as reported by CNN Chile. According to El Dínamo, he also said, “If [the police] had repressed [protests] as it is mentioned they did during the state of emergency, there wouldn’t have been 441 permitted protests,” he added.
His declarations, however, are contradicted by the many complaints from Chilean unions, organizations, and human rights defenders like the INDH, who count nearly 2,000 injured, as reported by Cooperativa.
CIDH commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas stood up to Bonito’s declarations saying that “while the civil society massively denounces [these crimes], the government spends most of its time talking about material damage … This, of course, sets a large distance between a rule of law and a rule of social law. If you care more about property than … human integrity, it sets a big difference between the way each of us view [this issue],” he said, according to Cooperativa.
The Ugly Truth
Amnesty International Director for the Americas Erika Guevara said, as reported by El Desconcierto, “it is evident that President Piñera has not disposed of every measure to stop the grave human rights violations and possible crimes of international concern that are still happening in Chile … Violent repression against protesters has been constant and could be intensified after the security measures imposed by the president on Nov. 7,” referring to Piñera’s recent security agenda announcement.
According to Amnesty.org, the organization received more than 10,000 allegations and audiovisual material proving the excessive use of force from police in Chile.
Piquer’s declarations sum up the Commission’s thoughts and numbers:
“It is frightening that in the course of just a few days more than 20 people have lost their lives, including five thought to be at the hands of state agents. On top of this terrible tally, hundreds have suffered permanent injuries in just a few weeks, such as the loss of an eye, after being hit by rubber bullets or teargas canisters. We have also documented cases of torture and sexual violence. How can the Chilean government play down the seriousness of these events, which continue happening daily?”
According to Cooperativa, after CIDH made its presentation, audience members asked the CIDH to demand the Chilean government to cease the repression. They also asked the Commission to further investigate the alleged human rights violations to determine the truth, and to then include Chile’s case in the CIDH Annual Report.
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.