Chile, and its “never again …. as far as possible”.

State neglect of eye trauma victims 2019. Re-victimisation and consequences of trauma

In the face of the distressing news about the fourth suicide of eye trauma victims of the social outburst, the human rights issue is once again placed in the preoccupations and public debate in Chile. It is very sad that the “Nunca Más” (Never Again) remains an aspiration without a correlate in reality. The victims of the outbreak are re-victimised by the state, which does not pay attention to the consequences of these outrages on the people who have been violated, nor does it weigh up the social and political consequences of its inattention.

Lack of clarity on the number of victims

It is unacceptable, in the 21st century, that the state authorities do not even have a reliable register and that we have to make approximations with the different data provided by these authorities. What is more certain and concrete are the figures collected by the victims’ groups, which speak of half a thousand victims, and that almost a hundred have chosen not to accept state aid because of mistrust, “fear of revealing their identity or fear of reprisals”. Is this the country we want?

National prosecutor’s office overwhelmed, adding up to state failure.

As illustrated by the report of the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH), out of more than 3,000 complaints, less than 300 have been formalised. Worse still, of the more than 3,500 victims of violence by state agents, to date almost 300 have been formalised agents of the state, to date almost 400 people have not even been summoned by the Public Prosecutor’s Office to at least hear their complaints first hand. The complaints seek justice for killings, torture and unnecessary violence, with specifications of eye trauma, injuries to other parts of the body, severe psychological abuse and more than 500 victims of sexual violence. Of these victims, almost 600 are children and adolescents.

“As INDH we are dismayed because the case of Jorge Salvo is a clear and convincing sign of the State’s neglect of the victims,” the Institute said, also highlighting the situation of the complaints filed.

Of the total number of cases brought by the INDH, 577 have already been closed. Of these, 505 cases have been closed due to a decision not to pursue them, because it was not possible to gather sufficient information to support the investigations.

He stated: “Access to justice, condemnation of those responsible and reparation for the victims are human rights standards that states are obliged to implement and ensure. In the case of Jorge Salvo and many of the victims who suffered institutional violence, they have not received any of them. There is an urgent need for a national policy and effective reparation programmes to meet this obligation”.

“It should be noted that the slow progress of judicial investigations and the lack of effective reparation measures have irreparable effects. Therefore, the state has a duty to act diligently and we urge all actors involved to adopt a firmer commitment in this regard,” stated the document signed by director Consuelo Contreras.

What do victims’ groups expect in response?

In an 11-point petition delivered to the authorities of the National Human Rights Institute (INDH), members of the Coordinating Committee of Victims of Ocular Trauma demanded reparations for “all victims and survivors of state terrorism” as well as hours of attention in psychological support and operations.

Along with solidarity with the family and in peculiarity with Jorge’s daughter, the coordinator called for “support in this exhausting struggle for truth, comprehensive reparation and guarantees of non-repetition”.

They rightfully demand a lifelong programme that operates throughout Chile, including human rights training for staff, care for the damaged eye as well as the healthy eye, and psychological care that includes an inter-consultation in the event that the damage is so severe that the programme is not able to contain it”, among other vital issues.

Who in the state is responsible for giving priority containment to these victims?

Piñera’s government set up a programme of attention to victims, with the acronym PIRO, which only operated in the Metropolitan Region, and which victims’ organisations learned about on TV. It was located in the Salvador Hospital, in its eye trauma unit, and we have a public evaluation of it from the victims’ groups, namely “The PIRO programme was precarious, the first one that started, had one psychologist for more than 300 victims of eye trauma. There were not enough professionals for it to make a serious, real treatment.

Nor were there any drugs or psychiatrists. We made a request to the former minister Mañalich, the medicines were very expensive, there was no one to finance it. It was only in 2022 that we managed to get the Ministry of Health (MINSAL) to provide the medicines and more than one psychologist and a doctor in the new version of the programme”.

PACT: responsible body from MINSAL

The current government announced the Plan de Acompañamiento y Cuidado a Personas Víctimas de Trauma Ocular (PACTO), which replaces Piñera’s PIRO.

This is now the body responsible from MINSAL and, in its description of objectives and operation, it includes the demands made public; but in the results, as we see with the suicides and a similar number of suicide attempts as extreme indicators of its activity, its effectiveness is questioned, and today voices are raised from different branches of the State to carry out investigations and summaries. Such actions have come too late for these victims, and the public sincerely hopes that they are not just opportunistic appearances to raise their faces in the media, but that responsibilities will be assumed and, above all, that the functioning of the state will effectively meet the needs of all these people who have been violated by state action.

Fifty years after the military coup, it seems that it is still not possible to make significant progress in our society in terms of human rights. Let us remember that once Patricio Aylwin was installed in La Moneda, he quickly wanted to forget his commitment to the citizens on these issues, prioritising the administration of the model that forced him to negotiate with the heirs of Pinochettism and, for those of us who see the history of the installation by force of the prevailing Economic Model today, it is inevitable to feel that what is coming in these times will not be any better. This considering that there are currently victims who have no justice, victims both of the past 19 October 2019 and of the years of the Dictatorship (which today some of those in power prefer to relativise in order not to fight with those who they feel could bring more “contra” to their project).

In the same vein, we see with regret how the for-profit academy is today lending its support to the constitutional process underway. A project “as far as possible”, with no direction of transformation that is at the root of rottenness and facilitating economic speculation; and we feel that this academy, to some extent, failed in ethics and coherence by allowing itself to be used to “whitewash” this nonsense.

Finally, we cannot sustain a public policy that blurs the relevant issues it is obliged to address if they are not on the front page of the media. Faced with this deplorable behaviour, citizens cannot accept it, cannot falsify their memory and must demand, by nonviolent means, that the state respond by making reparations, positively changing the direction of society and rejecting denialism, impunity and forgetting.

Collaborators: M. Angélica Alvear Montecinos; Sandra Arriola Oporto; Ricardo Lisboa Henríquez; Natalia Ibáñez Donoso; Guillermo Garcés Parada and César Anguita Sanhueza. Public Opinion Commission

Partido Humanista de Chile