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  • A demonstrator hit in the face by a tear gas round fired by riot police, is assisted during a protest against Chile's government, in Santiago, Chile November 23, 2019.

    A demonstrator hit in the face by a tear gas round fired by riot police, is assisted during a protest against Chile's government, in Santiago, Chile November 23, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 November 2019
Opinion

The health official is one of the local doctors working in an all-volunteer first aid commission treating people injured at protests.

Chilean police continue to implement pellets despite the official suspension of their use this week in all but the most extreme situations, according to health officials reported by Al Jazeera Saturday.

RELATED:
Chile's Police Suspend Use of Pellets After 270 Eye Injuries

"They are still using the projectiles," Francisco Sepulveda told Al Jazeera in Antofagasta, a city 1,400km (860 miles) north of Santiago, adding that "the suspension changed nothing."

The health official is one of the local doctors working in an all-volunteer first aid commission treating people injured at protests. It is one of the support efforts by Antofagasta's Emergency and Protection Committee, a grassroots assembly-led coordination initiative set up just days after protests began.

On Tuesday the Director of the Carabineros, Chile's military police Mario Rozas, announced the suspension of the use of pellets as an anti-riot tool, except in cases of "legitimate defense, when it represents a death threat."

The measure follows a study by the University of Chile that states that these pellets are composed of only 20 percent rubber, while the other 80 percent have different elements, such as lead.

Rozas said the measure will be maintained while the pellets are subjected to other tests requested from laboratories abroad. "The restriction will be evaluated when we have in our possession the results of the studies," he added.

At least 280 Chileans have been wounded in the eyes as a result of Carabineros shooting directly in the face in anti-government protests, a record in world statistics.

However, for Sepulveda "it seems to us that there is still a de facto state of emergency,” despite the official nine-day state of emergency the government decreed in October in response to protests was already removed by right-wing President Sebastian Piñera. 

The Antofagasta regional hospital said on Friday that it treated a total of 37 people who were injured in the context of protests on Thursday and that five individuals remain hospitalized due to the severity of their injuries.

"It has been systematic over these past five weeks," Natalia Sanchez, an emergency room doctor at the Antofagasta regional hospital, told Al Jazeera of injuries caused by projectiles.

Also, since the beginning of the protests against Sebastián Piñera's neoliberal policies, more than 17,000 people have been arrested and 950 are in pretrial detention.

Massive demonstrations against the Chilean government began in Santiago on Oct. 14 due to a 30-cent increase in the subway fare.

While this measure was revoked by Piñera, social unrest increased in magnitude as the Chileans began to question "30 years" of neoliberal policies, which have implied a systematic withdrawal of economic and social rights for millions of people.

According to the National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI), over the last month, over 6,000 people have been arrested and 2,400 injured in Chile.

In this context, several entities are seeking to hold Piñera accountable for human rights violations perpetrated by state forces in response to massive demonstrations. After more than six weeks of protests, the Chilean president admitted last Sunday that "there was excessive use of force" by state agents and that in some cases "the rights of everyone were not respected.”

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