The New York Times

The New York Times 5 Nov 2019

Chile's Security Forces Have Injured Hundreds, Here's How

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The large anti-government protests in Chile have led to more than 1,500 injuries. Among the most common: those caused by pellet guns fired by security forces.


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… show captions ↓
It’s a chaotic day in Santiago, Chile.
A photographer is using black-and-white film
to capture a large anti-government protest
and the authorities’ response.
He’s near the center of the city
when he faces a group of soldiers.
Moments later, he’s shot in the leg by pellets.
There’s video of how the incident unfolded.
Chilean government rules say there
must be a physical threat in order
to use this type of ammunition.
But here’s Palavecino Escobar with his camera.
Clearly, he’s not a threat.
Here’s when he’s shot —
[Gunfire]
[Woman speaking Spanish]
— then hobbles away.
The 29-year-old says he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
This is just one scene from the anti-government protests
that have gripped Chile.
At least 20 people have died and hundreds injured.
[Gunfire]
Chile’s security forces have been accused of misconduct
and human rights violations.
We examined the police and military responses
by reviewing videos and photos,
and talking to witnesses.
Some protesters have rioted.
But many more have been peaceful.
Early on, the president declared
a state of emergency.
In our analysis, we saw instances
of people being beaten,
tear-gassed
and brutally arrested.
And one pattern: security forces
shooting pellet rounds, or rubber bullets,
against nonviolent crowds, like in the case
of the photographer we mentioned earlier.
There’s at least 400 of these pellet-related incidents,
according to Chile’s Human Rights Institute.
This kind of ammunition isn’t intended to kill,
but when fired at extremely close range,
it can still cause serious or even fatal injuries.
Here’s what some of them look like.
On Oct. 22, journalists from Argentina’s “Todo Noticias”
were covering the protests in Santiago.
We see police being pelted by rocks and firing
back at protesters.
And while on air, one of the reporters
is shot by a member of Chile’s national police.
Here, you can see an officer taking aim.
[Gunshot]
[Man exclaims]
That same day in Concepción, this man is out after curfew.
As the soldiers find him, the camera is rotated.
We’ve adjusted the footage to keep it level.
It appears he’s told to stand still.
But the man continues walking towards a soldier.
A second camera then shows the soldier
shooting the man in the leg at close range.
[Gunfire]
We spoke to police conduct and human rights experts,
who said the man’s refusal to surrender
when confronted by the soldiers
is grounds for arrest.
But they did not see a justification for the soldier
to shoot the man.
As he is led away, a camera captures the bloody wound
in his leg.
But it’s not just journalists and protesters
getting injured.
Back in Santiago one week later,
a human rights observer was also wounded.
He was from the same group that
has been documenting alleged misconduct by security forces.
And he was hit by six pellets.
The injuries were not severe.
But the fact that he was shot while wearing
a bright yellow observer jacket
shows that anyone at Chile’s protests could be at risk.
[Shouting]
The United Nations and other human rights groups
have launched an investigation into the conduct
of security forces.
Chile’s president welcomed them,
saying he has nothing to hide.

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