Floriane Ramfos | Thu, 21 Nov 2019
In October, thousands of people have marched down the streets of Santiago and the surrounding cities to protest against the rise of subway fares. There has been some vandalizing, including metro stations and even setting an electrical company building on fire.
What started as a student protest catalysed into countrywide marches. The demonstration is believed to be one of the largest in decades, drawing comparisons to the protests in 1988 against the Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship. Armed forces were mobilized on the streets for the first time in almost 30 years.
Many of the protesters are now calling for a new constitution, since people are furious over inequality and the nearly complete privatisation of healthcare and education, the high cost of public services such as transport, on top of low wages and poor pensions. Chile is believed to be one of South America's most stable countries, it has one of the highest levels of economic inequality in the developed world.
Sebastian Pinera, the Chilean President said that he had ‘heard the message’ of demonstrators. He has however declared a state of emergency in a televised address to the nation on Friday the 15th of October. He also declared that the government was ‘at war with a powerful enemy, relentless, that does respect anyone or anything’, which indicates that armed forces will continue to try to contain the population by all means necessary.
Interior Minister Andres Chadwick and Sebastian Pinera have been heavily criticised over the handling of the protests, which have seen at least 19 people killed, and more than 3,100 detained. Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have expressed their concern over the government’s response to the unrest, and have condemned an ‘excessive use of force’ against the population.
"I hope this will be an opportunity to review the big injustices they have never addressed," said Cristin Correa, a senior expert at the International Centre for Transitional Justice.
‘There needs to be open and sincere dialogue by all actors concerned to help resolve this situation, including a profound examination of the wide range of socio-economic issues underlying the current crisis," said Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights and two-time Chilean president, in a statement.
The protests are currently still ongoing, and demonstrations of solidarity will have flourished across the globe, notably in Auckland, New Zealand, on the 27th of October.