Chile wakes up and resists

By Julieta Beristain

The curfew is renewed and the repression of the army and carabineros left a record of 15 dead and more than 1600 arrested.

Despite internal efforts to hide the most heinous images of the repression under the command of the Army and the Carabineros, the Chilean people resist and rebel against the government of Sebastián Piñera.

Student organizations initially demanded the withdrawal of the unfair increase in the Santiago metro fairs. Later fighting spirit of the citizens spread to many other cities including Valparaíso and Antofagasta, who, seeing the levels of repression, joined the cry of “CHILE AWAKENED!” That concentrated massive marches in the main squares of the Santiago.

Many have questioned the riots, the anger that runs through Chile, however, the correct questions are: what really happens in Chile, which is so praised by Latin American liberal political figures? Why are the Chilean people so disgusted? The sociologist Atilio Boron recently explained in statements to FM La Patriada: “The free ride in the subway is a trigger, the spark that started the fire. After almost half a century of economic promises. Chile has become the country with the highest proportion of indebted families worldwide.” Boron questioned the neoliberal policies that plague students, workers and retirees “after a curtain of consumption” that forced more than 50 per cent of the population into an unsustainable maelstrom of credit and debt. Thus, Boron explains the “awakening”, which despite the surprising resistance over the years, the systematic application of neoliberal policies have become unsustainable. The rupture that happens in these instances in the citizens’ will, is explained by the social and economic inequalities that arise from the current model – now – under the administration of the rightist Piñera, where privatizations of essential resources, such as water, make the life of a fed-up majority more expensive.

The scam, as Boron points out, was partly “to make Chileans believe that this was the best way to achieve progress, well-being, and development when all they have achieved is that the richest (10%) keep 30% of the national income and the poorest 50% keep 2.5% ”, which exposes the enormous structural inequality that exists in Chile, and which materializes in the streets of Santiago.

The last few days have accumulated 15 dead, a large number of wounded and more than 1600 arrested. Most of the information circulates through social networks: citizens who register the abuse of security forces against minors, workers and pensioners who, despite still being protected by the constitution in their right to strike, have been savagely beaten prior to being arrested.

When the curfew begins, the advance of tanks and military on foot becomes darker: there are allegations of imprisonment of people who were inside their homes, the brutal beating of citizens who were travelling alone and were ambushed by members of the security forces before being taken to police stations. Machine gun bullets have damaged young people and pensioners alike, they share the same sentence: being deprived of the right to education, health or denying them a decent retirement after years of poorly paid work. The model crushes them equally.

The delegate of Journalists of Valparaíso, Danilo Ahumada, informed that strikes from different sectors are being organised: Chile`s Workers Union (CUT, Spanish acronym) is calling for a general strike, while the July-September unemployment figures which have just been released show 8.3% unemployment in Greater Santiago, according to the Occupation and Unemployment Survey of the Microdata Center of the University of Chile.

The vice president of the CUT, Fabián Caballero said in an interview on Radio Gráfica: “the Chilean neoliberal model is the example used for the rest of the peoples of the region, which is supervised by international organizations and the US Government as well as the European Union ” In line with the statements of the sociologist Atilio Boron, Caballero understands that the knot of social protests corresponds to the accumulation of unfair policies that have increased inequality over recent years. The worker and member of the Chilean workers’ centre affirmed that “we must install a short agenda and work in an organized political direction that can solve the problems of Chilean workers and residents.”

From the CUT they insist on taking into account a series of important variables to discuss: the salary agenda, the cost of living, and the situation of pensioners. Caballero adds to the above and highlights what the underlying problem is for him: “We need to discuss a new Constitution for all Chileans. We live under the tutelage of the constitution of Pinochet, we need a new social agreement that advances within a framework of discussion that is not hypocritical”.

The fundamental explanation for the proclamation is economic and social inequality, a malaise that germinates and travels through Latin America. In tune, those privileged by the model fear but do not yield. President Piñera’s latest statements are at least believable when he claimed to be “at war” against his own people. The conditions at this time are of high tension and more forceful measures are foreseen by a government that responds with violence and cynicism rather than with politics.

The Chilean people demand concrete demonstrations of institutional political forces to amend the balance that keeps the vast majority in marginality and poverty; they must crack the foundations to get rid of hypocrites and thus give birth to loyal organizations trained to respond to the needs of the majority.

Julieta Beristain, Argentine journalist and producer of FM La Patriada and AM530.