Carabineros de Chile Use Caustic Soda in Water Cannons to Burn Protesters

A report released on Monday confirms that the Carabineros use pepper gas and caustic soda in the water cannons they use to disperse the demonstrations. In recent weeks, complaints from protesters have multiplied because of burns after being targeted by hydrant trucks.

This Monday, at the headquarters of the FeCh (Federation of Students of the University of Chile), a press conference convened by the Health in Resistance Movement was held, an organization that presented a report on the chemical components of the water launched by the police from these vehicles, popularly known as “guanacos”.

“The only way that the molecules of the chemical compound capsicin can be diluted (contained in the water thrown by carabineros), is through an alkaline medium, such as caustic soda.” With these words, the chemist Francisca Leiva, who was in charge of the report, revealed the reason for the various cases of burns reported by protesters.


According to Leiva, burns are a product of chemicals, and there is no doubt about it. The professional explained that the water released by the “guanaco” contains molecules of the chemical compound capsicin – an active component of hot peppers – and that for this to be dissolved in water, it requires an alkaline medium, such as caustic soda.

Leiva added that caustic soda generates physical effects and causes erosion on the dermis. This contradicts the cynical response of Carabineros that hinted at supposed “previous medical conditions” of the protesters who have reported burns.

The case of water burns from the water cannons of the Carabineros that were shown by the Health in Resistance Movement was that of Gonzalo, a young resident of Lo Hermida, who reported serious injuries and erosions on his neck and back as a result of police repression.

The young man from Lo Hermida said he was attacked by police and was sprayed when trying to remove tear gas bombs shot into his house by police.

In conversation with La Izquierda Diario, a doctor and a young woman from Lo Hermida pointed out that Gonzalo’s case is not isolated but that it occurs in the context of a serious situation of constant police repression faced by neighbors, and that includes dozens of injured with pellets, people who are attacked by police in their own homes, violence in courtyards and squares against children, adolescents and people in the sector, among others.

This complaint is in addition to those expressed by multiple local and foreign Human Rights organizations about the brutal repression of police officers and cases of torture and rape, as well as the shooting of pellets at eye level that left hundreds of people with eye damage.

It’s a matter of “punishment tactics” to “mark” physically, or psychologically, those who participate in the mobilizations. It is not something new, but the lessons that the police and military, not only from Chile but from all of Latin America, learn in joint exercises with the United States, and that are also “imported” from other armies, such as the French, which has policy experience of this type. They are those that these countries use in the wars that they carry out in different parts of the world and that apply against the local populations, as it happened with the School of the Americas and the “French School” during the genocidal dictatorships that our region lived through in the 1970s. Of course, Pinochet was no exception but one of their best students, and Carabineros continue to use these methods as part of their Pinochetist legacy which the street rejects and wants to end once and for all.

Source URL: La Izquierda Diario

Translated by JRE

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