Sun, Jul 21, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Venezuelan teen blinded by police still aims to study

AP, CARACAS

A Venezuelan teenager who lost his eyesight when he was hit by police buckshot during a protest said on Friday that he wants to continue studying.

Wearing reflective sunglasses, 16-year-old Rufo Chacon also spoke about difficult living conditions in his home state of Tachira, where he was injured during a demonstration over a lack of cooking gas earlier this month.

Asked what he likes to eat, he smiled and said chocolate and ice cream are his favorites.

He described a new life without sight.

“You see continuous darkness,” Chacon told journalists outside the Caracas office of Foro Penal, a human rights group. “It’s like having your eyes shut and seeing nothing, absolutely nothing.”

Chacon’s story stands out, even in a country with seemingly countless cases of deprivation and suffering.

Images of the boy grimacing and clutching his bloodied face right after he was sprayed with police pellets circulated widely on social media, causing revulsion among many Venezuelans accustomed to years of economic hardship and political conflict.

The shooting highlighted concerns about security forces using harsh tactics to quell discontent as Venezuelan National Assembly President Juan Guaido, the US-backed opposition leader, tries to oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who counts Cuba and Russia among his supporters.

Chacon appeared composed. There were dabs of cream on his face, to heal wounds from the police projectiles. After the shooting, medics plucked pellets from his eye sockets.

His mother, Adriana Parada, said her son has good and bad days.

She blamed Venezuela’s problems on its government and said she gets angry sometimes when she thinks about her son’s plight.

She said Chacon needs a medical procedure for prosthetic eyes.

Yet she also talked about what seems impossible.

“As a mother, I have to make my son see again,” she said.

Meanwhile, the US announced sanctions on four officials of Venezuela’s military intelligence unit, saying that the action was linked to the death of Captain Rafael Acosta Arevalo, a Venezuelan navy officer allegedly tortured in state custody.

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