Chile police suspend use of birdshot against protesters

SANTIAGO (AFP) – Chile’s police said on Tuesday they had suspended the use of birdshot during street protests amid an outcry over eye injuries suffered by more than 200 demonstrators.

The decision was announced by the head of the Carabinero police, Mario Roza, after a month of protests over socio-economic inequality and other problems.

Police said the birdshot pellets are made of rubber but some studies said they also contain metal.

“As a prudent step, use of this non-lethal ammunition as a riot tool has been ordered suspended,” said Roza.

A study by the University of Chile of ammunition extracted from injured protesters found birdshot composed of 20 per cent rubber and the remaining 80 per cent consisting of silica, barium sulfate and lead, which meant the pellets were as hard as “a skateboard wheel,” the report said.

Roza explained that following the report an internal investigation was conducted which also found “discrepancies” with the information provided by the company that sells the birdshot.