“I nearly died after being hit by a police officer’s rubber bullet”

Interior claims it has no record of any incident at last year’s miners’ protest

Consolación Baudín de la Lastra was wounded by a police rubber bullet last summer.
Consolación Baudín de la Lastra was wounded by a police rubber bullet last summer.ULY MARTÍN

"I saw the gun barrel pointing at me and I moved suddenly. I knew that it was pointing at me. And then came the gunfire; I nearly died because of those riot police."

That was how attorney Consolación Baudín de la Lastra remembers what happened to her on July 11, 2012, when she was walking near the Paseo de la Castellana to watch and support miners from León and Asturias, who were marching to protest the government's cutbacks in the sector.

"I went out to show my support," she said. "As I was leaving with a group of people who were holding their hands up to show the police that they were against violence, I saw the gun barrel aiming at me. Then I felt something, which was indescribable, hit me. That is when I lost all consciousness."

Baudín de la Lastra, who her friends call Chelo, says that they later told her they called the Madrid emergency ambulance service Samur after she fell and hit the sidewalk.

She was hospitalized for 60 days at La Princesa hospital in the capital and wasn't released until September 11, after a spell in the intensive care unit. Doctors said she was in a "serious condition."

The rubber bullet hit the small-framed woman and penetrated her vertebrae — a serious injury that put her on a breathing machine for 40 days.

The report states she suffered from "chest trauma and rib fractures"

Despite her ordeal, the Interior Ministry has said that the incident never took place. In fact, government officials maintain that there was no violence or any shooting incident during the protest.

But Chelo says she is not going to give up.

She has taken her case to the courts, and in parliament Socialist Deputy Pedro Muñoz — who is his party's spokesman on the interior committee — has also taken up her cause.

"I want [the government] to recognize that there was a crime committed. What type of threat did I pose that someone would shoot me?" Chelo asks.

The miners' march ended abruptly on that hot July 11 morning. EL PAÍS reported that there were eight people arrested and 76 others who suffered minor injuries.

Interior Ministry sources said that "anti-establishment groups" had infiltrated the protest and attempted to knock down the police barriers set up outside the ministry building.

I am not going to give up. In a democracy, you cannot order the police to open fire"

The fact of the matter is that there were violent protestors who hijacked what was meant to be a peaceful march of miners, who were accompanied by their wives and children as well as other supporters. Chelo Baudín de la Lastra, who describes herself as "leftwing" but above all as a "peaceful" citizen, said she doesn't belong to any political party or organization. However, she said she supports the socialist cause.

"I went out to give my support to the miners who had been marching for days to reach Madrid," she said. "I went by myself this time; at other protests my son sometimes accompanied me, and before that my husband, who died of a heart attack at the young age of 50."

A Madrid court is investigating the incident and has been examining a video that allegedly shows a police officer firing into the crowd near where Baudín de la Lastra was standing.

"I am not going to give up," she says. "In a democracy, you cannot give orders to the police to fire on citizens who are holding a peaceful protest." As part of her case, Baudín de la Lastra has presented eyewitnesses who saw an officer fire on the crowd and who were present when she fell on the sidewalk near No. 224 Paseo de La Castellana at 2.16pm.

Included in her case is the Samur emergency medical report, which reflects the seriousness of her condition.

The reports states that she suffered from "chest trauma, and right rib fractures."

"From the first 24 hours of admission she needed an endotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation [...] The patient's clinical situation today remains serious."

Ombudsman Soledad Becerril has demanded a full report from the police concerning the incident. But on March 21, the Interior Ministry said in a report to Socialist deputy Muñoz that there is no record that Samur's emergency medical services attended a call to treat Baudín de la Lastra.

"It is unknown whether any of the protesters were injured by a rubber bullet because there is no information that emergency medical services treated anyone injured in such an incident," the report stated. Even though Baudín de la Lastra was in hospital for nearly three months, the ministry claims there is no record of her stay.

Meanwhile, Chelo Baudín de la Lastra is trying to regain her normal life. But she has not been able to go out to support any of the protests this year — causes that she still insists on backing.

Even after the tragic incident that took place during the demonstrations in support of the miners, Baudín de la Lastra is now supporting the ongoing protests by Madrid health workers over cutbacks in the medical sector and proposed privatization of some services.

"I support their cause because public health needs to remain as it is now. How can I not support people who saved my life?"

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