Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime allegedly maintained a covert supply of botulinum toxin that could have been used to kill “thousands” of people, Germany’s Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported on Thursday.
Microbiologist Ingrid Heitmann, the director of the Chilean Public Health Institute in the late 1990s, told the news outlet that her colleagues found two unmarked boxes of the biological weapon in the institute’s basement in 2008. She ordered the syringes full of the poison destroyed, and never reported their discovery to the Chilean president or courts at the time, she said in an interview.
Alvaro Erazo, a former Chilean health minister, said the revelation could have serious ramifications, according to the Santiago Times.
“Of course this news impacts the whole country because of the implications it may have in human rights violations cases,” he told Una Nueva Manana, according to the Times.
The bacterially produced toxin — a key ingredient in Botox cosmetic treatments — was developed throughout the 20th century for aerial dispersal during warfare, and it is considered a possible tool for an act of bioterrorism.