Chilean police responded to recent mass protests in a “fundamentally repressive manner” resulting in serious abuses including unlawful killing and torture, UN investigators said yesterday.
They highlighted that official Chilean figures of more than 4,900 people injured in the protests were disputed and other sources had far higher numbers.
Their report decried the “unnecessary and disproportionate use of less-lethal weapons” such as anti-riot shotguns and tear gas, which had left roughly 350 people with severe eye injuries.
Chile’s worst crisis in decades erupted in mid-October over metro fare hikes but quickly escalated into the most severe outbreak of social unrest since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet nearly 30 years ago.
Furious Chileans have taken to the streets to register their anger over inequality and particularly to vent at the elites that control much of the country’s wealth.
The public prosecutor’s office said it was investigating 26 deaths in the context of the protests and the justice ministry has said more than 4,900 people were injured, including nearly 2,800 police officers.
The UN investigators, who visited Chile from October 30 to November 22, said other sources had reported far higher numbers of injured.
The investigators also reported that more than 28,000 people had been detained between October 18 and December 6, but that the great majority had been released.
Presenting the report, mission chief Imma Guerras-Delgado told reporters that more than 1,600 remained in detention, according to official Chilean numbers.
She said “the management of assemblies by the police has been carried out in a fundamentally repressive manner” leading to abuses including unlawful killings and torture.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced in October she would send a special mission to investigate allegations of rights abuses.
Meanwhile Chilean lawmakers rejected a bid to oust President Sebastian Pinera over allegations he failed to safeguard human rights during weeks of deadly riots, a small victory for the embattled leader as he pushes for reforms to quell protesters’ demands.
After hours of debate that featured angry shouting matches, the Chamber of Deputies tossed the impeachment motion out 79-73 on grounds that it did not meet the Constitutional threshold for ousting a sitting president.
The vote ran largely along party lines, as widely expected, with some centrists voting in Pinera’s favour.
Pinera was the first president to face impeachment in Chile in more than 60 years.
The outcome of the vote, however, was hardly cause for celebration as the debate exposed deep-seated divisions and simmering anger, said political analyst Lucia Dammert, of think-tank Espacio Publico. “The administration must now take advantage of this decision to promote reforms,” Dammert told Reuters.
Pinera has proposed boosting the minimum wage, beefing up pensions and slashing costs for public services.
Left-leaning lawmakers behind the impeachment bid blasted Pinera for declaring early in the crisis that Chile was “at war with a powerful enemy,” and being slow to stamp out police abuses.
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