The trouble began because people were unhappy about a rise at the cost -4 cent hike to metro fares- to use the subway. Later protests progressed to the violence by police, harming protesters with chemical substances added into water, killing dozens and arresting thousands of people. So far, more than 24 people have died and more than 2,000 have been injured. Over 7,000 people have been arrested too. Public prosecutors in Chile are investigating more than 1,000 cases of alleged abuses — ranging from torture to sexual violence — by security forces during weeks of anti-government uprise. There are 1,000 more allegations reported but still to be looked at, said Ymay Ortiz, head of the public prosecutor’s rights division. Human rights organisations have received several reports of violations conducted against protesters by security forces, including eye mutilation, torture, sexual abuse and sexual assault. Many protesters have been blinded by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters, according to medics. Patricio Acosta, president of Red Cross Chile, said more people lost an eye in the past three weeks than in the last 20 years. The Chilean Ophthalmological Society has registered 225 instances of severe eye trauma from October 19 to November 10 and said that may rise. Amnesty International’s investigations “allege that state security forces, including both the police and army, deliberately use excessive force against protesters.” Amnesty International went on to state that “the military and police are using unnecessary and excessive force with the intention of injuring and punishing protesters.” According to Erika Guevara-Rosas, the America’s director for the human rights group, “the intention of the Chilean security forces is clear: to injure demonstrators in order to discourage protest.” Human Rights Watch stated that “indiscriminate and improper use of riot guns and shotguns, abuse of detainees in custody, and poor internal accountability systems gave rise to serious violations of the rights of many Chileans”. Although many international institutions and organizations have expressed reactions, the world continues to remain silent against these issues.
It is useful to take a look at some of the cases recorded by Reuters news agency and listen to stories from the victims:
- Father-of-three Alex Nunez was returning from work in October during a military curfew with a claim that it was imposed to “curb violent protests” in Chile’s capital Santiago when, his family say, he was chased by three police officers who beat him badly. Nunez, a 39-year-old repairman, made it home that night but was rushed to hospital, where he died from his injuries shortly afterwards. “Only 5% of his brain was working. They couldn’t operate,” his widow Natalia Perez told Reuters at her home in the low-income Santiago area of Maipu.
- Natalia Aravena, a 24-year-old nurse, said she was heading to a protest near the Moneda presidential palace when police sprayed the crowd with a water cannon. “The cops got out of their vehicle with weapons to shoot tear gas. They were shooting into the air and then they started to shoot directly at the people,” said Aravena. She said a canister smashed into her face and ruptured her eye, leaving her partially blind. “I was protesting with my voice and they attacked me with a weapon,” she said.
- Camila Miranda, a 24-year-old street performer, said she was participating in a peaceful march on Nov. 4 centered on Plaza Italia -a downtown hub that symbolically separates Santiago’s haves and have-nots — when violence broke out. Miranda took cover next to a kiosk and was hit by six rubber bullets, four of them piercing her skin, she said. As blood streamed down her legs, she grabbed a fence to hold herself up and police sprayed her in the face with tear gas, she said.
However protesters are now marching to express their unhappiness over a wide variety of problems ranging from inequality to the high cost of healthcare. Among all OECD countries, Chile has the highest levels of inequality. More than a million people are believed to have attended a rally in the capital, in what organisers said has been the largest demonstration in Chile since 1990. President Sebastian Pinera also declared a state of emergency in the capital Santiago and in five other cities. Specifically, anger has been boiling over high healthcare and medicine costs, low pensions, high utility costs, a lackluster education system. Chile’s new middle class has expectations for improving living standards. There have been protests in recent years over the cost and quality of education and health care and over pensions that don’t help the elderly make ends meet, but little has changed in response. The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) states that 1% of the population in Chile controls 26.5% of the country’s wealth, while 50% of low-income households access 2.1%. Additionally, according to the National Statistics Institute of Chile, while the minimum wage in Chile is 301,000 pesos, half of the workers in that country receive a salary equal to or less than 400,000 pesos.
Chile’s constitution is a holdover from the military rule of Augusto Pinochet, and many Chileans point to it as a main source of the country’s inequality today — Pinochet and his economic advisors adhered to the economic philosophy championed by U.S. economist Milton Friedman, where the government has a minor role when it comes to regulating the free market and providing public services. Despite the fact that it might have helped improve country’s economic condition, it also brought with itself a lot of problems due to corruption caused by military ruling, people suffering under the boots of Pinochet government and vulnerability against exploitation of country resources. Even if the country’s constitution is successfully rewritten there is no guarantee that Chile will return to what it once was. Many of the factors driving protestors to the streets have built up over generations, and now they’re out in the open.
The fact that people have been poisoned by water chemicals added in it, often through water cannons, has emerged in recent weeks. Enforcement started spraying water with chemicals such as oleoresincapsicum on protesters gathered. Many protesters experienced skin burns, loss of sensation, and loss of limbs.There is a government-sponsored company that supplies these chemicals and distributes chemicals to forces. It is FAMAE (Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército). Despite the fact that Chile has links to many black companies considering connections, FAMAE is at the top of these companies, since FAMAE had a direct connection with the military dictator Pinochet. Company records show that FAMAE was formerly named Complejo Químico Industrial del Ejército.
The biggest cause of Chile’s economic inequality is the methods Pinochet used in his time. Under the influence of the free market-oriented “Chicago Boys,” Pinochet’s military government implemented economic liberalization, including currency stabilization, removed tariff protections for local industry, banned trade unions, and privatized social security and hundreds of state-owned enterprises. Some of the government properties were sold below market price to politically connected buyers, including Pinochet’s own son-in-law. Over time, the opposition’s assets were confiscated and turned into state property under some so-called laws. His fortune grew considerably during his years in power through dozens of bank accounts secretly held abroad and a fortune in real estate. He was later prosecuted for embezzlement, tax fraud, and for possible commissions levied on arms deals. One of the most prominent characteristics of military dictators is that they underestimate the financial power of their family. We see this in many places around the world, and it is not surprising that we see it in Chile.
FAMAE has been one of the most important elements of arms smuggling throughout history. Here, it is necessary to underline an important name who served during the Pinochet period: Gerardo Huber, in tasks that were suspected of having to do with the development of Sarin gas and other chemical weapons. After Augusto Pinochet’s coup in 1973, he began working for the DINA -Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional- intelligence agency and was sent to Argentina to infiltrate groups supporting the Chilean MIR faction in its struggle against Pinochet’s dictatorship. DINA was the secret police of Chile during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The DINA has been referred to as Pinochet’s Gestapo. DINA has been involved in many crimes, from human rights violations to press censorship.
Ives Marziale, representative of Ivi Finance & Management Incorporated, a firm directed by German Gunter Leinthauser, arrived in Chile in October 1991 in hopes of buying second-hand weapons from the Chilean Army to sell to the Croatian Army. At that time, this arms deal had to be canceled when the UN imposed an arms embargo to suppress the conflict. Later, this agreement was made in secret. Under the Pinochet government, secret arms deals were many more. Marziale closed the deal with General Guillermo Letelier Skinner, a close associate of Pinochet’s and head of the Chilean Famae (Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército, Factories and Arsenals of the Army of Chile), the quasi-military firm in charge of producing the weapons. The agreement was worth more than US$6 million. The illegal arms deal was revealed in December 1991. A Hungarian newspaper published that crime. The magistrate called Gerardo Huber as a witness; Huber declared that he had been following orders from General Krumm, the logistics chief. On 29 January 1992, Huber, who was vacationing in San Alfonso, Cajón del Maipo, disappeared. His body was found on 20 February 1992, with the skull shattered. General Krumm was working at DINA at that time. General Krumm testified to Magistrate Pavez that the arms deal had been directly approved by President Pinochet. Although Huber’s death was initially recorded as a suicide, the judge denied it. Findings pointed to murder. In the investigation of the murders of DINA agents Gerardo Hüber and Eugenio Berríos, some networks were exposed. Hüber worked with Michael Townley in the manufacture of chemical weapons. They assigned him to the Army Chemical Complex, in Talagante, where he even served as governor.
FAMAE’s dirty past and criminal possibilities are not limited to this either. Over a 25-year history, there were bones found in the Army Factory and Maestranza, the compound where the Famae was operating, where the new Santiago Justice Center was built. According to what emerged in the framework of the investigation, the judge of the Sixth Criminal Court of Santiago, María Elisa Tapia, came to those lands to verify the complaint that in the first place she stamped an anonymous before Carabineros and was later supported by the Association of Disappeared Detainees (AFDD). That same investigation would have determined that there are at least three bodies, which were later covered with cement, as would appear in the anonymous complaint.
In addition, some weapons produced by FAMAE are also used by some European armies, such as the Greek army. Let’s underline some FAMAE-made weapons and chemicals used by the Chilean police: Small arms, including an agreement with Israel Weapons Industry (IWI) to co-produce the Ace N 22 5.56 x 45mm assault rifle, 145 Small arms ammunition, chemical irritants including CS grenades and CS spray.
Let us mention all other military companies operating in Chile:
- Astilleros y Maestranzas de la Armada (ASMAR) A state owned ship builder, ASMAR was founded in 1895
- Astilleros y Servicios Navales S.A. (ASENAV) A private enterprise founded in 1974, its facilities are located on the Valdivia River in Southern Chile. ASENAV has built about 80 vessels, mainly light patrol boats for a crew of five.
- CK Equipamento Aeronautico (CKEA) Manufacturers parachutes for personnel and for the deceleration of aircraft.
- Complejo Químico Industrial del Ejercito (CQIE) Part of the Chilean Army’s Corps of Engineers, this firm is located in Talagante, close to the capital city of Santiago.
- Empresa Nacional de Aeronautica (ENAER) Chile’s only aircraft manufacturer, this state owned enterprise was founded in 1984. ENAER is currently working on the upgrading and modernization of the Chilean Air Force’s Northrop F-5 and Mirage 50 aircraft.
- DTS Ltda. A 50–50 joint venture between ENAER and ELTA/IAI, DTS manufactures defense electronics and is a regional leader in this field.
- Fabricaciones Militares (FABMIL) An independent division of ASMAR founded in 1982, this firm focused on defense electronics. FABMIL inherited the responsibility of modernizing’ aging radars in Chile’s Armed Services
- FAMIL, S.A. A subsidiary of FAMAE, this firm focused on engineering projects for the defense systems of the Chilean Armed Services.
- LINKTRONIC A private enterprise founded in 1985, LINKTRONIC got started by manufacturing high tech remote control systems for the Chilean private sector.
- METALNOR With five plants in Iquique and one in Santiago, METALN0R is one of the largest defense companies in Chile. Until very recently, METALNOR was known as CARDOEN. The latter was associated with transactions with Iraq, which led to losses in the vicinity of U.S. $40.0 million and some difficulties with the U.S. and Chilean governments.
- RMS Ltda. A privately owned enterprise founded in 1968, RMS is dedicated to the production of electrical and electronic components for the region’s industrial sector.
- Sistemas de Defensa (SISDEF) This Chilean firm was founded in 1983 and is owned by ASMAR (50%) and FERRANTI (50%). SISDEF participated in the modernization of the Chilean Navy’s obsolete electronic equipment.
- Sociedad General de Comercio, S. A. (SOGECO) A privately owned enterprise founded in 1941, SOGECO joined the defense sector in 1974 by developing an anti aircraft 20mm cannon known as the SOG-3 A/A.
Carabineros, another intelligence structure within Chile, also poses a threat to protesters. This intelligence agency has a hand in most corruption from Pinochet’s time to the present. Let’s explain the internal structure of the Carabineros.
During the colonial period, there existed a fifty-man police unit known as the Queen’s Dragoons, which was responsible for law enforcement in the Santiago area. This force changed its name to Dragons of Chile (Dragones de Chile) in the early years of the republic and, by 1850, had increased in strength to 300. It was subsequently incorporated into the army as a cavalry regiment. By that time, civil police forces had also been set up in the major population centers. In 1881 the Rural Police Law created a separate rural police force in each province, and six years later each municipality was authorized to set up its own local police force. In 1902 four of the army’s seven cavalry regiments were ordered to detach a squadron apiece to form a new entity to be known as the Border Police (Gendarmes de la Frontera) and to be engaged primarily in the suppression of banditry in the less developed regions of the country. Despite being administratively and operationally subordinate to the Ministry of Interior, this unit remained ultimately under the jurisdiction of the minister of war. Five years later, it acquired a larger establishment and changed its name to the Carabineros Regiment (Regimiento de Carabineros). Although still lacking a formal permanent institutional existence, in 1909 the Carabineros established an Institute of Instruction and Education, which admitted its first class of police cadets in August of that year. Five years later, the responsibilities of the force were extended to railroad security. Finally, in 1919, the force acquired a formal independent existence under the Ministry of Interior, and its title was changed again to the Carabineros Corps (Cuerpo de Carabineros). The Carabineros also include marine and air sections. The Air Police, which ranks as a separate prefecture, dates from 1946, when it was formed with a single Aeronca Champion aircraft. The Air Police acquired its first helicopter in 1968; by 1993 its inventory of helicopters had increased to fourteen. The excuse behind which every corrupt intelligence service in the world takes refuge is to prevent crime. Carabineros also caused many human rights violations under this pretext. Military courts continue to exercise jurisdiction over abuses committed by the uniformed police, the Carabineros. Criminal proceedings in military courts lack the independence and due process guarantees of ordinary criminal proceedings. Investigations are secret, the proceedings are conducted mainly in writing, and lawyers have limited opportunities to cross-examine witnesses. In May 2015, a student, Rodrigo Avilés, was knocked off his feet by a police water cannon and severely injured when his head struck the sidewalk during a street protest in Valparaíso. The Carabineros initially denied responsibility. Appeals courts have repeatedly called on the Carabineros to observe strict protocols on the use of force when entering Mapuche indigenous communities in the context of land conflicts in southern Chile. In February 2015, the Supreme Court ordered the Carabineros to respect the right to liberty and personal security (amparo) of three Mapuche teenagers who were allegedly pursued, detained, and beaten by police in October 2014.In April 2015, three opposition members of the Chamber of Deputies presented a motion proposing that the chamber ask the Supreme Court to dismiss the director of the National Human Rights Institute (INDH), Lorena Fries, for “manifest and inexcusable negligence.” Their action followed a complaint by the chief of police about a school text on human rights distributed by INDH, which argued that Carabineros made numerous arrests during street protests in part to deter marchers from exercising their freedom of assembly. Chile is one of four countries in Latin America (the other three being El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua) with an absolute prohibition on abortion, even in the event of medical necessity or rape. Carabineros relied on this ban and hurt many people.
As we conclude this article, let’s include what someone living there said about Chile’s military structure:
“In Chile, I know education is private and very expensive, most people can’t afford university, that’s why a lot of people from Chile go to other countries to study. Also I understand that aristocracy in Chile are military, so they have lots of power. People who work with the military are the richest and the most powerful in Chile so they can do what they want.”
As it turns out, Pinochet’s brutal rules still prevail in Chile, and corrupt governments remain silent to these crimes.