Chile's Navy Wednesday took action against protesting fishermen off Valparaíso, who were insisted they had not worked for more than 100 days and demanded promises made eight years ago be delivered.
Several fishermen were injured as Navy troops fired rubber bullets at them “at point-blank range,” according to one of the victims.
The fishermen demanded that the Valparaíso Port Company build a new cove or productive unit, something they had promised to do eight years ago but never did.
“We were calm, passive, and they started shooting at us, throwing tear gas. You are fighting for your own life, we have not worked for more than 100 days,” an injured worker told the media.
The maritime Governor of Valparaíso, Commander Nelson Saavedra, said pellets were used against the fishermen who were demonstrating to demand the fulfilment of the promises.
The fishermen have had to move to the Quinteros area to continue working, but that area presents environmental problems and several have reported illnesses acquired by their companions after poisoning.
Meanwhile, Sebastián Piñera's Presidential Delegate to Valparaíso Jorge Martínez supported the Navy's actions: defends actions of naval personnel in a violent protest by artisanal fishermen. He claimed the protesters attempted to drift a merchant ship docked at site 6, which forced the naval personnel to take action. Martínez also announced the filing of legal actions against the fishermen.
Martínez also explained that “fishmongers went and first set fire to protection tires at sites 4 and 5 of the Valparaíso TPS Port Company. Others of the TCVAL company had already set fire ”.
He then underscored that “the most serious of all, and I want the public to understand me, they went to a ship that is in site 6 to cut off their spies; the ship's spies are the moorings that keep it in port; if the spies are cut off, a ship can be left adrift, and in an area like the sheltered pool of Valparaíso it can generate gigantic damage.
In the face of this threat, two speedboats of the Navy went to avoid this situation.” When the Navy group arrived the fishermen threw stones and other things at them and even one of their boats was attacked, Martínez explained. “The Maritime Authority tells me that everything is recorded and filmed, so the means of proof will be at hand” to be seen “when we take legal action,” he added.
As a result of this attack, the presidential delegate pointed out that the naval personnel in self-defence, and with compressed air weapons, are not even the weapons that we know as pellet launchers, two rounds of 15 shots each were fired, 30 shots in total, with rubber pellets with air inside from a single post, which is not lethal.”
Martínez insisted on the damage that could have been caused by the cutting of the moorings of the merchant ship Cóndor Bilbao for its crew, for the people who work in the Port of Valparaíso, for the city of Valparaíso and the country: here we are talking about Chilean foreign trade, he said.
“If the port of Valparaíso stops, if it does not work, it is serious not only for the city that loses employment, because the ships will have to go elsewhere, it is serious for Chile because of the decrease in international risk qualification of ports, would imply increasing insurance costs,” he elaborated.
Hence the Government's need to “make every effort to maintain order in the port and [make sure] that its fundamental activity is not altered.”
“We will take all measures to punish those who generate damages, losses and/or crimes in the port activity of Valparaíso, with the support of the maritime authority and the Carabineros,” Martínez also explained.
Regarding the requests of the fishermen, Martínez said the Government was “giving them all the solutions, we are building the cove, we are doing it with them, but what we cannot because we do not have the possibility as a Government” to grant the salaries the protesters demanded.