It has been nine months since Fabiola Campillai’s eyes stopped seeing. Among the last people she distinguished is her sister Ana María, who accompanied her to the bus stop to take locomotion to go to work to do the night shift. At that time there were no protests or mobilizations in the sector; despite the fact that Chile in those days was in the throes of a social explosion that was coupled with strong repression in the streets. “Go no more, nothing happens,” a neighbor who had been watching for possible disorders in the place yelled at them. They, without fear, decided to leave.
As they walked, they talked about Fabiola’s daughter’s graduation party. They were so enthusiastic about organizing the details that they did not even notice the presence of a police squad that was located at the corner of their passage. The policemen were heavily armed and, without provoking any provocation, began to shoot directly at the women at face level at a maximum distance of 40 meters. Fabiola couldn’t even see who attacked her.
The carabinieri fired tear gas canisters with a 37-millimeter shotgun. One of them hit the face of Fabiola, 36 years old and mother of three children. She suffered, among other injuries, a head trauma, multiple facial and nose fractures and the bilateral ocular burst, that is, she lost vision in both eyes. The senses of taste and smell also disappeared.
Ana María tells us that when she went to face the police for what had happened and to ask for their help, one of them threw a tear gas at her feet, setting her pants on fire. The woman had to turn it off alone, while she saw her sister on the ground and the officers who continued to drop smoke bombs. According to the videos that have come to light from the camera seized from the Carabineros captain in charge of the operation, belonging to the 14th San Bernardo Police Station, he himself gave the order to fire these devices again both with a shotgun and with his hand. . The smoke would create a kind of wall that would allow them to retreat.
Also in those videos, it is appreciated that at least two officials would have admitted that they saw a person fall injured at the intersection where they were shooting, which they later confirmed in their statements in the internal summary of the Carabineros. However, none of them helped. Before the desperate cries of Ana María, the neighbors came out to see what was happening. It was one of them who drove Fabiola to the hospital in his car. As indicated by the Legal Medical Service, if the appropriate medical attention had not been provided, she would have died.
“Fabiola is a very loved person in the neighborhood. Everyone knows her for her community work and her role as a firefighter ”, tells us Ana María, who left her job to dedicate herself to taking care of her sister. “I don’t understand why this didn’t happen to me, since I have grown children and not to her. This fact ruined our lives ”, he adds.
Fabiola was unconscious for a month and then hospitalized until June 2020. When the prosthesis implantation surgery was to be performed, a fistula was plugged in her head, which generated a leak of brain-spinal fluid and she had to be operated on urgently . Currently, you are temporarily discharged due to the pandemic, but must rehospitalize as soon as possible for more reconstructive surgeries.
“The day after the attack on Fabiola, the police came to our house and fired tear gas. They wanted to take me to the police station but they didn’t bring any warrant, just a notebook, ”Ana María assures us, who finally did not agree to accompany them on the recommendation of the lawyer who is handling the case.
In an interview with our Amnesty International team, the staff of the Chilean National Prosecutor’s Office commented that they have observed that, since the use of anti-riot shotguns was limited on November 19 of last year due to questions about the composition of the pellets by the events in which Gustavo Gatica was left blind, there has been a noticeable and proven increase in the use of 37-millimeter carbines that launch tear gas directly at the body. It must also be considered that the use of these bombs has an exclusively dissuasive purpose to disperse protesters, and not to cause pain. The use of tear gas fired from a shotgun at less than 150 meters can be fatal.
Fabiola is discharged due to the pandemic, but must be hospitalized again as soon as possible to undergo more reconstructive surgeries
Despite the existence of an audiovisual record, the main officers involved in the events that blinded Fabiola Campillai, both in their statements before the Prosecutor’s Office and in the Carabineros summary, deny having shot Fabiola’s body directly, as well as having noticed that that she had been injured in the operation.
On August 14, and after an internal summary, the Carabineros corps dismissed two officials for not providing assistance to Campillai. However, they have not raised any questions regarding the excessive use of force or the breach of protocols by the police who were present at the scene. In other words, there were no words or measures to condemn the attack perpetrated on Fabiola.
For its part, the investigation being carried out by the Prosecutor’s Office makes clear the existence of the crime and of who participated. Moreover, the records handled by this entity indicate that the official who was allegedly responsible for the attack was not certified to use a gas-fired shotgun on the date of the attack. This last certification was only obtained the following month.
It is difficult to understand then why, if it has been identified who was in charge of the operation and who was shot, only after nine months of the attack has a Carabineros captain been arrested for his alleged responsibility. Amnesty International is calling for the entire command line to be investigated, not just who shot on November 26. Through Fabiola’s eyes, Justice cannot lose sight of all those who participated in this crime, either because they allowed it or because they did nothing to prevent it.
Ilsen Jara is director of communications for Amnesty International Chile.
The section En Primera Línea is a space in Planeta Futuro in which members of NGOs or institutions that work in the field narrate their personal and professional experiences in relation to the impact of their activity. They are always written in the first person and the responsibility for the content rests with the authors.