(Autoras Chilenas. Local organisation of feminist authors)
Chile, October 24, 2019
Last week protests and acts of civil disobedience erupted in Santiago de Chile due to a rise in the price of the metro. This increase by 30 pesos (to a fare of 1.23 dollars in a country where almost two-thirds of the population receives an annual salary of less than 400,000 Chilean pesos, that is, less than 550 dollars) led to massive protests across the whole territory against the cost of living, the privatisation of natural resources as well as health, pensions and education, and, more generally, against the imposition of increasingly precariousness living conditions in the neoliberal “lab” of the world. The signs say: “It’s not 30 pesos, it’s 30 years”. Thirty years of widespread abuse and systemic inequality: the monthly income of the poorest segment of the population is less than 140 dollars while members of parliament earn more than 25,000 dollars per month (4.7 times more than the world’s average). According to the World Bank Group, Chile has the seventh highest levels of inequality in the world.
The government has reacted with violence and repression to these massive and largely peaceful protests, declaring a state of emergency and curfew. The global media, television and newspapers are not responsibly relaying the Chilean people’s legitimate demands, and are not thoroughly reporting the widespread abuses against protesters and civilians by the Chilean forces. The streets of Chile’s capital, Santiago, as well as several other cities, are now patrolled by the military. Half of the country is under a government-imposed curfew, and protests are being brutally repressed. By the official count, 18 civilians have died as of today, 24 October 2020, and there is no sign to suggest that this number will not rise. The Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos (INDH) is reporting more than 2400 people detained, and hundreds wounded. There are reports of sexual violence by the military against detained women, and cases of torture. Yet, the government continues to withhold information about the circumstances around a number of these deaths, and has even praised the armed forces’ behaviour without assuming any political responsibility.
The repression is worsening by the day. Misinformation is rife, and Piñera’s government is exacerbating the problem by declaring more regions in a state of emergency and under curfew, and by announcing a series of cosmetic changes to an economic system that has lost all political legitimacy. Just two days ago the president stated “We are at war”, and the recent change of tone in last night’s speech was not supported by a de-escalation of the militarisation. We are not at war. What we are witnessing in Chile is public protest – legitimate civil disobedience after decades of abuse. And the government’s response of militarisation and repression is unjustifiable.
This is by far the biggest crisis the country has seen since the dictatorship. As organised feminist writers committed to freedom of expression and human rights, we believe it is crucially important – both for the immediate protection of citizens, and to bring about necessary political and social change – to build up international pressure as soon as possible: 1) so that the military leave the streets, 2) to stop the violation of human rights immediately, and 3) to regain the right to protest within a real democracy. We need all the international support we can get. Please share this information, contact human rights organisations in your country, write to your representatives and demand an immediate end to human rights violations in Chile.
A new social contract can only be reached once the military are off the streets.