A 16-year-old who was shot in the face by rubber pellets during protests in Venezuela has revealed he has lost both his eyes.
Rufo Chacon was protesting two weeks ago alongside mother Adriana and brother Adrian, 14, over a shortage of cooking gas in the northern town of Tariba when he was shot by police. Images of his bloodied face shocked the world.
Doctors have now revealed that, of the 52 pieces of buckshot which hit his face, 16 of them entered his eyes, forcing them to remove both and leaving him blind.
Rufo Chacon, a 16-year-old Venezuelan who was shot in the face by rubber pellets during a protest two weeks ago, has lost both of his eyes
Doctors revealed that, of the 52 piece of rubber buckshot which hit Chacon (pictured with mother Adriana) in the face, 16 of them entered his eyes, forcing them to remove both
Rufo, who was protesting shortages of cooking gas along with his mother and brother when he was shot, says he is starting to forget what colours look like (pictured before being shot)
Rufo told CNN that he desperately wants his vision back because he is starting to forget what colours look like.
‘I want to have my sight back,’ he said. ‘I have all sorts of feelings, I would like to cry but I can no more. I cried enough in the hospital.’
In a rare move, Venezuelan authorities have condemned police actions in suppressing the protest and arrested two officers.
The pair have been charged with attempted murder, improper use of weapons and cruel treatment and are currently awaiting trial.
Attorney general Tarek William Saab specifically mentioned Chacon’s case as he announced charges against the pair two weeks ago.
A report into the violence reveals that, alongside Chacon, two others received head injuries during the protest – one of whom was younger brother Adrian, who was hit in the head with a baton.
Rufo was taken to hospital where Dr Luiz Ramires confirmed the damage to his eyes was so catastrophic they would have to be surgically removed
A crowd of people flee from officers stood in the road in Tariba, in Tachira state in northwest Venezuela on Monday
The violence was also denounced at the time by opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognised as Venezuela’s legitimate president by most western nations.
He said: ‘We will not get used to it, we will not stop calling them murderers … nor will we get used to the sadistic act against the eyes of Rufo Chacón who also did not get used to living without gas in a country that had plenty.’
Dr Luiz Ramires confirmed Rufo’s eyeballs had been catastrophically wounded, saying yesterday: ‘The patient will be operated on in the next few hours to perform a surgical evisceration of both eyeballs.’
Citizens in the oil rich South American nation have been spending hours and in some cases days queued up to buy gas over in recent weeks as plummeting refinery output and stalled imports have added to the chaos of an economic collapse.
Last month 32-year-old Wilderman Paredes was shot dead by officers in Tabay at a gas station – around 150 miles from where Rufo was shot in the eyes.
President Nicolas Maduro at a rally in April – he has blamed gasoline shortages on US sanctions
Defacto President Juan Guaido said the violence against Rufo was a ‘sadistic act’
Men began to argue as a large contingent of Bolivarian National Guardsmen rolled in to refuel their vehicles when the people were being told the gas station was out of service.
Parades was shot through the chest and died before arriving at hospital on June 9.
The country’s socialist economy and its once powerful oil industry have unravelled since crude prices collapsed in 2014, leaving a nation that once exported fuel unable to supply its own internal market.
As shortages worsened last month, soldiers began overseeing rationing of gasoline at service stations in several parts of the Venezuela.
The lack of gasoline along with the decay of electricity and telecommunications services has left a growing number of rural towns slipping into isolation and relying on barter exchange to get by.
Maduro blames the country’s problems on United States sanctions that have crimped oil export earnings and prevented his government from borrowing abroad.