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Chile - Political Protests 2019

Chile supposed to be stable and prosperous and reaching economic development but behind that you have a lot of grievances related to injustice - related to how wealth is distributed. How there are so many people that live pay check to pay check and not even that, many people use their credit cards to pay for food, phone and electricity bills. A 4 percent fare hike raising the price of a ride on the capital’s metro system by 30 pesos ignited mass protests on 18 October 2019.

The issue of public transport is sensitive in Chile, especially for many marginalised sectors of society. There are poor people who live on the outskirts of Santiago who were excluded from the capitalist center, so they have to take a long journey to work. They are the ones who would have paid the real price for the proposed measure. The issue struck a nerve for many Chileans, leading many to reflect deeply on their society and what many perceive as the rising social inequality - from the general cost of living to low salaries and poor services.

In early October, the government announced that the metro rush hour prices would rise by 30 pesos ($0.04). Responding to public outcry against the rising fare, then-Minister of Economy Juan Andres Fontaine announced that those upset with the price rise could wake up earlier and pay a lower rate. "When the costs rise, there are not many options," he said at the time. Outrage grew after the remarks, leading students to conduct a mass fare evasion by jumping over the metro turnstiles, and, in some instances, destroying them.

It was not a coincidence" that the movement began with high school students because they have always driven Chilean social movements. Since the dictatorship, they have been involved in political movements, and this time again, they again took the baton and started the protests. As police attempted to stop the students at the stations with force, the protests spilled out into the streets.

Initially students began fair dodging, and soon many college students joined them as things escalated, as workers joined them. On the key themes across the protests are the ‘cacerolazos’, the banging of pots and pans in defiance. One protestor’s banner reads: ‘our wooden spoon against your bullets’. There are different groups gathered together, many with Vuvuzelas, drums and raucous chants against the authorities and saying “long live Chile”. On 18 October 2019, Chile's President Sebastian Piñera declared a state of emergency to try to control the massive protests which started with increased metro ticket price. Just a day later, however, he announced the suspension of the subway fare hike. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday called for an independent investigation into the deaths that occurred during violent protests over the weekend. She also mentioned "disturbing" allegations of excessive use of military force.

Miners and dockers unions in Chile called for a general strike in support of the protests against the government of President Sebastián Piñera, while the head of the National Defense Javier Iturriaga said 21 October 2019 that he is not at war with anyone. "The truth is that I am not at war with anyone," General Iturriaga said when asked about the latest statements by the president, who said he was "at war against a powerful enemy."

The workers of the largest private mining company in the country called for "paralyzing all the mining in Chile along with other productive sectors". The statement announcing the call said "We are going through the general strike until we break down the state of Emergency, take the military out of the streets, defeat the Piñera government and achieve each of the demands of the working people, popular sectors, youth, pensioners and women!"

Chile's National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI) presented on 22 October 2019 the latest statistics of detainees and injured since the social protests began on October 17th. According to its report, there had been 1,420 arrests and 84 people wounded by gunfire so far. Chilean authorities officially reported 11 people have died since the start of the protests.

There is almost always someone who records the arrest with a smartphone, uploads the video to social networks and soon after the images go viral. Since the riots intensified, the Armed Forces took control of public order in much of the country and began night curfews, social networks are hotbeds of videos with violent detentions and weapons attacks against citizens. They are videos recorded from windows, balconies or on the street in which agents appear beating detainees, dragging them badly wounded on the ground or shooting at point-blank range with pellet guns of pellets and live ammunition firearms.

Protests that started over a hike in public transport fares boiled into massive marches. The government responded with heavy repression. By 25 October 2019 at least 18 people had been killed, hundreds have been injured, and over 7,000 arrested. Pinera, a billionaire businessman, told the nation on Thursday he had heard "loud and clear" the demands of Chileans. He sent lawmakers legislation to overturn a recent hike in electricity rates, and called for reforms to guarantee a minimum wage of US$480 a month and introduce state medical insurance - only in the case of "catastrophes."

Over one million people marched in the streets of the Chilean capital, responding to the convocation of students and labor unions who organized on social media "The Largest March in Chile", with rallies paralyzing major cities. The march started between 5-6 p.m., local time, from the Plaza Italia, demanding among others the government to send back the Armed Forces to their military base, and to convoke a Constituent Assembly in order to outline a new Constitution. They held banners like "Chile woke up" and "We are not at war," as Chile's military has taken over security in Santiago, a city of 6 million now under a state of emergency with night-time curfews.

According to reports 8 people lost their lives in fire-related incidents and around 19 in total have reportedly died. Chile's Interior Minister on 26 October 2019 acknowledged that 20 people have died. In addition, according to the National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI) data, 3,162 people have been arrested, 343 of whom are minors. Until Friday night, 997 citizens were injured, 437 of whom were shot by security forces. The rally was estimated to have drawn bigger than a million folk to the streets of Santiago, in what organisers said was the largest demonstration since democracy was restored in Chile in 1990.

President Piñera on 26 October 2019 requested the resignation of all his ministers and announced that curfews would be lifted the following day. "I have put all my ministers on notice in order to restructure my cabinet to confront these new demands and take care of the new times," Piñera said from the La Moneda palace. Regarding the main demand of the Chilean population, however, Piñeda was absolutely silent, for he did not make reference at all to his resignation.

It was the worst violence the country has witnessed since the 17-year-long military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which ended in 1990.

Chilean opposition political parties generated a unitary agreement 12 November 2019 and called on Sebastián Piñera's government to hold a Constituent Assembly and a plebiscite for a new Constitution. Through a communiqué, the political alignments called on the government to reject its own proposal for a Constituent Congress and listen to the "mobilized citizenry. "The need for a New Constitution, born out of the claims of citizenship, must allow the establishment of a new political, economic and social model. The text also affirms that, through institutionality, an agenda that combats abuses and inequalities must be urgently implemented to alleviate the situation faced by thousands of families.

An agreement for a new Constitution was reached 15 November 2019 by several political parties while protests continue in Chile, many questions remain on its details. The agreement for a new Constitution would include a question on a Constituent Convention, not a Constituent Assembly, a notion fought against by right-wing forces in Chile for the last 30 years. While the agreement has the backing of parties that support the current administration of Sebastian Piñera, alongside those of the former "Concertacion", and a sector the Broad Front, it has drawn suspicion from the Communist Party, who along with a sector of the Broad Front, decided not to participate in the negotiations accusing a lack of consultation with social movements. The agreement called for two referendums with a mandatory vote.

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera on 23 December 2019 signed off on a referendum to be held on a new constitution, which he vowed would generate a “solid, compassionate and legitimate framework” that would help reunify the country after nine weeks of intense protest over inequality and elitism. Pinera said the plebiscite, which was approved by Congress days earlier, would kickstart a process of “broad and effective citizen participation.” “It is of the utmost importance to recover the value of unity, of dialogue, of agreements, especially with those who think differently,” he added.

Chileans will on Sunday 26 April 2020 decide whether they want a new constitution and if they do, whether the body that draws up the new document should be a popularly elected assembly or one mixed with current lawmakers. The country’s current constitution dates back to General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 military dictatorship and, critics say, fails to guarantee proper healthcare, education and citizen participation in government. The scrapping of the old constitution emerged as one of the main demands of protesters who have mobilized across the country over the two months.

In January 2020, in Santiago and other smaller cities, the scenario was practically the same: the Military Police deploying violent actions in an attempt to disperse hundreds of citizens who were protesting. According to the opinion polls in late January 2020, only six out of 100 Chileans agreed with President Sebastian Piñera, who continues to justify police brutality.

On 31 January 2020, the National Prosecutor's Office confirmed that it investigates allegations of 5,558 people who have suffered human rights violations since the protests began on Oct. 18, 2019. Of that amount, 4,170 victims established direct accusations against the Military Police, 244 complaints are directed against the Army and the others against other security institutions. However, only 38 State agents are being prosecuted for one or more crimes. So far, the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) recorded 67 formal complaints against security officers for rape. Some 3,798 human rights violations took place in public spaces, 582 cases in either police stations or military precincts, and 72 cases of abuse happened inside homes.

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Page last modified: 31-01-2020 19:11:33 ZULU