I Was Shot and Lost My Sight for Protesting Inequality in Chile. We Need to Keep Demanding Justice


My life modified utterly on Nov. eight final yr.

That day, Carabinero officers—members of the Chilean Nationwide Police—shot me in each eyes, leaving me utterly blind.

Why did they shoot me? For exercising my proper to protest.

Earlier than that day, I used to be an unusual scholar from Santiago, finding out psychology, enjoying basketball, using my bike and enjoying the bass.

That day, I used to be taking part in a mass social demonstration, a part of a wave of protests that started on Oct. 18 2019 to vary a system that’s primarily based on inequality. The protests began because of a rise within the value of public transport, however that was simply the set off after a long time of injustice. We took to the streets to vary that, to demand extra equal entry to well being and schooling, and higher pensions.

However in Chile, demanding your rights at all times entails a sure degree of threat. There’s no assure that you’ll return residence safely. Whenever you exit to protest, you go ready with a helmet and a facemask to guard in opposition to tear gasoline. However there’s no strategy to shield your self from the weapons fired by the Carabineros.

In keeping with the Nationwide Human Rights Institute, a minimum of 4 individuals died by the hands of safety forces in the course of the first six weeks of the social outcry, and greater than 12,500 had been injured. Amnesty Worldwide has documented how in lots of instances, officers intentionally fired pellets and tear gasoline canisters at individuals’s heads. They report a minimum of 460 instances of extreme eye trauma accidents by the top of the mass protests in March.

The authorities’ intention was clear—to harm us as punishment for daring to protest.

It has been exhausting for me to get used to shedding my sight. Throughout the first few days it was tough for me to carry a fork to eat. I’ve needed to be taught all these processes over again, however with time I’m growing the skills that I have to proceed with my life. Now I can do issues like cooking—perhaps badly, however I can do it—and I’m even studying to play the drums and the piano.

Probably the most tough factor has been going exterior and utilizing a strolling stick. It’s anxious due to the noise and the environment. However in March I went out to protest once more in the identical plaza the place I used to be shot. That was crucial to me and it was shifting to really feel individuals’s affection. Lots of people thanked me; it felt unusual however good. Many individuals have supplied me assist and we’ve constructed a large community of individuals. This help and solidarity provides me the energy to go on.

I’ve at all times believed within the significance of the seek for justice, fact and reparations for the victims of human rights violations in the course of the army dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile from 1973-1990. These help networks should be developed to battle for justice as soon as once more.

The authorities have been updating me on the progress of the investigation into my accidents. There have been a whole lot of delays, however in August, after 9 months, they arrested Claudio Crespo, a Carabinero lieutenant colonel, because the alleged perpetrator. I’m glad progress has been made and am now ready for the justice system to do its job and in addition cost those that allowed the Carabineros to come back out and shoot us day after day.

Plainly the federal government is extra involved about public opinion and stress from overseas than from its personal individuals. The help of worldwide our bodies is essential as a result of it shines a highlight on what is going on in Chile.

I’ve spent the previous few months in lockdown with my household due to the pandemic. We’ve gone out as little as attainable to keep away from placing ourselves in danger, however sadly the repression in Chile has not stopped. The armed forces are within the streets, allegedly to assist cease the unfold of coronavirus, however they’re armed with their rifles and shotguns. It nonetheless doesn’t make sense: what’s the level of getting troopers with firearms on the street throughout a well being disaster?

The armed forces present up on the protests, however they’re not educated to take care of public order; quite the opposite, they’re educated for struggle. Actually, a number of months in the past, they shot a person and broken his eye too. This stuff are nonetheless occurring in the course of the pandemic. The federal government continues to commit human rights violations.

What provides me hope for the way forward for the nation is the upcoming referendum to draft a brand new structure. It won’t change issues in a single day, however I feel it is going to be a giant step ahead. If profitable, the brand new structure have to be primarily based on respect for and assure of human rights. We additionally want a complete restructuring of the Carabineros. We will’t permit them to maintain hurting us.

This tragedy that we’ve skilled ought to by no means have occurred. All that’s left is for us to maintain demanding justice and reparation in all instances of human rights violations. We have to keep alert and observe the authorized proceedings in order that the perpetrators and the politicians who’re accountable face justice.

The repression that we’ve skilled in Chile during the last yr must not ever be repeated.

Gustavo Gatica’s case is featured within the 2020 version of Amnesty Worldwide’s annual international letter-writing marketing campaign.





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