Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chilean government suspends tear gas use against protests

Law enforcement personnel commonly fire tear gas canisters against protesters. Over the past week tear gas was used in demonstrations in areas like Kosovo, Uganda and Egypt. But the possible health risks in tear gas led Chile’s government to make a major decision on Tuesday.

Chilean interior minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter announced the suspension of the use of tear gas by police against protests. According to Hinzpeter the decision will remain in effect while medical studies are conducted to check on the possible toxicity of the tear gas.

As reported by the AFP news agency, scientists at one of Chile’s top universities believe that the tear gas used by police may be very harmful:
The chemical agents made in Israel and used solely by the Chilean police, contain “CS Gas” that could cause abortions according to a study done by the Universidad de Chile.

“There is a possibility that the chemical substances in the tear gas bombs could affect reproductive functions; thus, harming the fetus in the third trimester of pregnancy and children in the early years of life,” said Universidad de Chile toxicology expert Andrei Tchernitchin.
Chilean police and military have regularly used tear gas in the years during and after the rule of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet. Yet the controversy over its use came last week after police fired it on tens of thousands of protesters opposed to the HidroAysen energy project.

Opposition legislators, who initially called on Hinzpeter to report about the effects of the tear gas, mostly supported the government’s decision.

More protests against the government-backed hydroelectricity plan are set to take place outside of the Congressional building in Valparaiso on Saturday. President Sebastián Piñera will deliver his state of the union address in that building while those demonstrations take place.

Image- Azteca Noticias
Online Sources- Los Angeles Times, Reuters, The Guardian, La Tercera, El Nuevo Herald, The Latin Americanist, El Espectador, MSNBC

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