Eye Injury in the 2019–2020 Chilean Protests: History
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The 2019–2020 Chilean protests are characterised by widespread eye injuries, including many globe ruptures ("exploded eyes"), among protesters as result of Chilean riot police's use of "rubber" bullets and tear gas grenades. Data from the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) shows that the use of "rubber" bullets and pellets by security forces has left at least 1863 injured, including 268 with eye problems. According to the Chilean Ophthalmology Society, this is the highest number of injuries of this type registered during protests or in conflict zones in the world. In late November, security forces announced the suspension of the use of "rubber" pellets as a crowd control method in the protests. The INDH updated figures at the end of January 2020 reporting that 427 persons had received eye injuries at the hands of the police. Almost 90% of the injured are men. As of early January 2020 the age of injured goes from 14 to 59 years, and averages 28 years. UTO, the Ocular Trauma Unit (Spanish: Unidad de Trauma Ocular) of Hospital del Salvador has treated the majority of eye injuries. By November 18 it was estimated that nearly 30% of the cases of eye injury that had occurred in the context of the protests involved "exploded eyes", a trauma for which there is no remedy, and results in complete blindness of the affected eye. Monday October 21 is reported by ophthalmologist Mauricio López as one of the days with most eye injuries, that day Hospital Salvador received twenty cases of which ten alone came in the span of a single hour. The high command of the Chilean police ordered an end to the use of supersock cartridges on October 31. Despite this and other initiatives declared by the high command the number of severe eye injuries in November was about the double as in October. As result of the COVID-19 pandemic in Chile many of the injured have not been able to continue their treatments. In the cases where injured have gone to hospital for treatment and supervision some have had to share rooms with COVID-19 patients. Bandaged eyes had become so common that they become a symbol for protesters. Among protestors the injured are considered "martyrs" and "proof of police brutality". The eyes bandages featuring in the "A Rapist in Your Path" performances are references to the victims that have suffered eye injuries 2019–2020 Chilean protests. Singer-songwriter Nano Stern released the song Regalé mis ojos (lit. "I gave away my eyes") on November 19 paying homage to Gustavo Gatica, who lost both eyes in the protests. Álex Anwandter covered one of his eyes in homage to the injured during the Olmué Festival in January 2020. Anwandter then added that he hoped that "this time, in difference to the [Pinochet] dictatorship, there will be accountability. And the politically responsible, such as Piñera, will pay." During Mon Laferte's show in the Viña del Mar International Song Festival members of her crew covered their eye in reference to the eye injuries. Fabiola Campillai and Gustavo Gatica, two well-known victims, were part of campaign advertising for the "Approve" option in the 2020 Chilean national plebiscite held on October 25.

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1. Causes and Responsibilities

thumb|right|200px|Mario Rozas, Director General of Carabineros de Chile, Chile's main police force and the force in charge of riot control. Analysis of the composition of the "rubber" pellets used by Chilean police shows that 80% of the pellets is made up of hard substances such as silica and barium sulfate while rubber makes up 20%. The measured hardness of the "rubber" pellets is 96.5 shore A.[1] The hardness of the pellets explain why "exploded eyes" are so common.[1] Police sources cited by Ciper indicate the shotgun munitions being of the brand "supersock", containing lead and reaching velocities of 82 m/s.[2]

Between October 18 and late December Chilean riot plice shot 152 thousand "rubber" pellet cartridges of which 104 thousands were fired in the first two weeks of protests.[2] As each cartridge has 12 pellets it means that 1.25 million pellets were fired in the first two weeks.[2]

A survey of 19 people who suffered eye injury shows that 9 of them recall Chilean police aiming directly at their face.[3] The fact that fewer cartridges were fired in November relative to October but that the number of eye injuries doubled from one month to another imply police may have deliberately aimed to injure protesters.[2] An estimate by astrophysicist Nestor Espinoza shows that if the "rubber" pellets were fired truly randomly against people the number non-eye injuries would be in the order of 750,000.[4]

It has been suggested that contributing factors to excessive police violence are the label of "non-lethal weapon" which would have misslead police regarding the harm potential of weaponry,[5] and a lack of respect among the polices in the field for the authority of Mario Rozas the Director General of Carabineros.[6]

A police officer identified in the press as "G-3"[7] is accused to have used his "rubber"-pellet shotgun in an abusive manner against protesters in different times and places in late 2019.[8] "G-3" is investigated for the complete blinding of Gustavo Gatica on November 8.[8][9] According to Amnesty International it is "unacceptable that the high command of the police tolerated that high ranking officials such as "G-3" made repetitive improper use of their weapons. By not taking measures to impede for this Subprefect ["G-3"] and his subordinates to continue operating outside established protocols and international norms, the high command of the police contributed to one of the most regrettable episodes of recent Chilean history."[8] After an internal police investigation on June "G-3" was fired,[10] for manipulating evidence recorded in his corporal GoPro.[10][11]

1.1. Political Responsibilities

Eye injuries were one of the topics addressed during the impeachment of Minister of the Interior and Public Security Andrés Chadwick in November 2019. On November 20 Ministry of Health Jaime Mañalich declared to the Chamber of Deputies that there was twelve persons with the loss of one eye and about thirty with serious injuries.[12] The President of Colegio Médico Izkia Siches made also declaration to the congress regarding eye injuries, expressing her belief that police has not followed the protocols on the use of "rubber" bullets.[12] On December 11, 2019 the impeachment motion was passed in the Senate effectively barring Chadwick to hold public office for five years.[13] An attempt to launch a similar impeachment process to destitute President Sebastián Piñera was rejected on December 12 as unconstitutional in the Chamber of Deputies.[14][15]

2. Victims with Complete Loss of Vision

As of January 31, 2020, INDH counted 29 people who had suffered the complete loss of vision in one or both eyes.[16] Some of these victims are:

  • Gustavo Gatica a 21-year old psychology student from Santiago. Gatica was blinded in both eyes by a police identified in the press as "G-3".[8][9] Gatica was blinded in November 8 and returned to Plaza Baquedano, the focal point of the protest Santiago, on March 11 amidst applauses from protesters.[9]
  • A 16-year old from Coquimbo Region. He suffered the complete loss of vision in one eye as result of an ocular explosion caused by the impact of shotgun "rubber" pellets on November 11, 2019.[17] The teenager reports to have taken shelter against tear gas in a bus stop when he leaned out his head to look after his cousins when he was hit.[17] According to his testimony he was subsequently thrown to ground by a police and had then his head pressed against the ground by the boots of second police.[17] The 16-year old was taken to the Coquimbo Hospital by police and recalls of this that police officers contradicted his version claiming to him that he was hit by a stone. In the same incident police would also have made commentaries about raping, killing him and hitting him.[17]
  • Manuel Véliz a 21-year old construction worker from Santiago. Before the protests he had been unemployed since September. Véliz recalls that having participated in the protests the previous week on Friday November 15 he was returning home after having gone out to search for work. In the afternoon he encountered the protests and was subsequently shot in eye by police at 7:10. He was taken to hospital in an ambulance together with Fabián, another protester injured in the eye. Véliz stayed hospital until November 17.[18]
  • Fabiola Campillai, a 36-year old worker. On November 26 she was hit by a tear gas grenade permently losing the sight in both eyes[19] and the senses of olfaction and taste.[11] Campillai was going to her nighttime work when she was hit by the grenade.[19] As of June 19, 2020, no suspect has been identified.[11]
  • Diego Lastra, medical student. Lastra was celebrating New Year's Eve in Plaza Italia when he was struck by a tear gas grenade. He fell to the ground and was then moved around in the ground by the shoot of a water cannon. Lastra suffered the complete loss of vision in his left eye.[20]
  • Matías Orellana, schoolteacher. Orellana was hit by a tear gas grenade in Valparaíso in the at 4 o'clock in morning of January 1, 2020. He was hit while walking in the street with a group of friends while they passed through a zone where there were a police operation in relation to protests was taking place. The resulting injuries lead to the complete loss of vision in one eye.[21]

The content is sourced from: https://handwiki.org/wiki/Social:Eye_injury_in_the_2019%E2%80%932020_Chilean_protests


  1. "Investigación U. de Chile comprueba que perdigones usados por Carabineros contienen solo 20 por ciento de goma". Universidad de Chile. November 18, 2019. https://www.uchile.cl/noticias/159315/perdigones-usados-por-carabineros-contienen-solo-20-por-ciento-de-goma. 
  2. Weibel Barahona, Mauricio; Jara, Matías (August 18, 2020). "Carabineros revela que disparó 104 mil tiros de escopeta en las primeras dos semanas del estallido social" (in es). Ciper. https://ciperchile.cl/2020/08/18/carabineros-revela-que-disparo-104-mil-tiros-de-escopeta-en-las-primeras-dos-semanas-del-estallido-social/. 
  3. (in es) Informe anual: Sobre la situación de los Derechos Humanos en Chile en el contexto de la crisis social (Report). Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. November 30, 2019. https://bibliotecadigital.indh.cl/bitstream/handle/123456789/1701/Informe%20Final-2019.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y. Retrieved 2020-07-01. 
  4. Calderón, Martín (November 13, 2019). "Astrofísico chileno analiza la probabilidad de que te llegue un balín en el ojo" (in es). FayerWayer. https://www.fayerwayer.com/2019/11/astrofisico-balin-ojo/. 
  5. Velásquez Valenzuela, Javier; Fernández Carter, Catalina (May 27, 2020). "¿No letales? El daño que ha causado la munición que dispara Carabineros a los manifestantes y por qué debe prohibirse" (in es). Ciper. https://ciperchile.cl/2020/05/27/no-letales-el-dano-que-ha-causado-la-municion-que-dispara-carabineros-a-los-manifestantes-y-por-que-debe-prohibirse/. 
  6. In regards to the eye injuries and other police abuses journalist Mónica Gónzalez denounced on November 11, 2019, that Chilean police was "in fury" and "out of control and without pilot". González claims that part of the reason for this is that the Director General of Carabineros Mario Rozas does not inspire respect nor obedience among lower ranking officials.[23] This disregard for Rozas authority is explained by González by Rozas being an armchair general linked to high-ranking officers investigated for corruption.[23] Chilean police reject these accusations as unsubstantiated.[24]
  7. "G-3" had already gained a reputation of aggressiviness by his parcipation in various violent incidents related to the 2011–2012 Chilean student protests in Valparaíso. In 2012 he participated also on a controversial raid against fans of Santiago Wanderers in Bar Roma.[25][26]
  8. Meza, Cristián (June 24, 2020). "Gustavo Gatica: Carabineros responde a posible ocultamiento de información". El Dínamo. https://www.eldinamo.cl/nacional/2020/06/24/gustavo-gatica-caabineros-ocultamiento-de-informacion/?utm_medium=interno&utm_source=single-rel-sigueleyendo. 
  9. "Gustavo Gatica vuelve a Plaza Baquedano a cuatro meses de perder la visión". El Dínamo. March 11, 2020. https://www.eldinamo.cl/nacional/2020/03/11/gustavo-gatica-vuelve-a-plaza-baquedano-a-cuatro-meses-de-perder-la-vision/. 
  10. "Caso Gustavo Gatica: Informan que oficial conocido como G-3 fue dado de baja de Carabineros". El Desconcierto. June 26, 2020. https://www.eldesconcierto.cl/2020/06/26/caso-gustavo-gatica-informan-que-oficial-conocido-como-g-3-fue-dado-de-baja-de-carabineros/. 
  11. Villaroel, María José (June 19, 2020). "Carabineros da de baja a funcionario acusado de incumplir protocolos en caso de Gustavo Gatica". Radio Bío-Bío. https://www.biobiochile.cl/noticias/nacional/region-metropolitana/2020/06/19/carabineros-da-baja-funcionario-acusado-incumplir-protocolos-caso-gustavo-gatica.shtml. 
  12. "Ministros de Salud y Defensa exponen en comisión sobre acusación constitucional contra Chadwick". Cámara de Diputadas y Diputados. November 20, 2019. https://www.camara.cl/prensa/sala_de_prensa_detalle.aspx?prmid=138502. 
  13. "Senado aprueba acusación constitucional en contra de Andrés Chadwick: exministro no podrá ejercer cargos públicos por cinco años" (in es). La Tercera. December 11, 2019. https://www.latercera.com/politica/noticia/senado-aprueba-acusacion-constitucional-andres-chadwick-exministro-no-podra-ejercer-cargos-publicos-cinco-anos/935035/. 
  14. "Los diputados que firmaron la acusación constitucional contra el Presidente Piñera" (in es). Radio Cooperativa. November 19, 2019. https://www.cooperativa.cl/noticias/pais/presidente-pinera/los-diputados-que-firmaron-la-acusacion-constitucional-contra-el/2019-11-19/134813.html. 
  15. "Cámara de Diputados desechó acusación constitucional contra el Presidente Piñera" (in es). Radio Cooperativa. December 12, 2019. https://www.cooperativa.cl/noticias/pais/presidente-pinera/camara-de-diputados-desecho-acusacion-constitucional-contra-el/2019-12-12/161205.html. 
  16. (in es) Información constatada por el INDH al 31-01-2020 (Report). Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. January 31, 2020. https://www.indh.cl/bb/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Reporte-31-enero-2020.pdf. Retrieved June 30, 2020. 
  17. "INDH de Coquimbo se querella por el caso de adolescente que perdió su ojo por disparo de perdigón" (in es). Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. November 25, 2019. https://www.indh.cl/indh-de-coquimbo-se-querella-por-el-caso-de-adolescente-que-perdio-su-ojo-por-disparo-de-perdigon/. 
  18. de la Paz, Patricio (December 24, 2019). "Los ojos perdidos de Chile". El Tiempo. https://www.eltiempo.com/bocas/manuel-veliz-otro-ojo-perdido-en-chile-446250. 
  19. "INDH se querella por homicidio frustrado contra Carabineros en favor de trabajadora que habría perdido visión de ambos ojos" (in es). Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. November 27, 2020. https://www.indh.cl/indh-se-querella-por-homicidio-frustrado-contra-carabineros-en-favor-de-trabajadora-que-habria-perdido-vision-de-ambos-ojos/. 
  20. "INDH presenta querella por joven que perdió un ojo por lacrimógena en año nuevo en Plaza Italia" (in es). Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. January 8, 2020. https://www.indh.cl/indh-presenta-querella-por-joven-que-perdio-un-ojo-por-lacrimogena-en-ano-nuevo-en-plaza-italia/. 
  21. "INDH se querella por lesión a profesor que perdió un ojo en Valparaíso" (in es). Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos. January 4, 2020. https://www.indh.cl/indh-se-querella-por-lesion-a-profesor-que-perdio-la-vista-en-un-ojo-en-valparaiso/. 
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