What began with students jumping off the turnstiles to evade payment of the increased Metro fare has become a social outpouring of proportions claiming to end the neoliberal model in Chile. People have had enough of enduring the inclemency, the contempt, the bad treatment of the elites so benefited by economic privileges. As before the fires that affected several Metro stations, the President declared war – if, literally said that “we are in war against a powerful enemy” – the nonviolent protest was raised to the sound of Victor Jara’s song “The right to live in peace” and the demonstrators hugged each other in the streets, gathered and converged in the main squares of all the cities, in the largest and most peaceful demonstrations that have ever taken place. The government had to react by lifting the curfew it had imposed, removing the military from the streets, changing its cabinet, and quickly drafting legislative proposals that have come to be called “the social agenda,” a package of palliative measures that certainly do not go to the root of the problem.
The popular response was to meet in Councils and assemblies, which multiplied in every courtyard, university, hospital, square or neighborhood. It was widely and equally discussed what kind of country we want and everywhere was growing the voice for a Constituent Assembly that can shape a new Constitution.
However, government superficiality spoke of “citizen dialogues” and replaced the military with Carabineros of special forces, trained to shoot pellets in the eyes and wound with tear gas bombs. Twenty people have already died and many have been wounded, shot, beaten and arrested. There are also disappeared and women and girls raped by the police force. Yesterday they entered a high school and shot at the legs of students, producing indignation.
In addition to the violence and repression unleashed, there are the vandalic reactions of those who break public furniture in order to defend themselves and prepare themselves to build their barricades. The main avenues have been transformed, over the course of days, into real battles in the countryside. They no longer have traffic lights. The highways are blocked by the No+TAG demonstrators, who demand that the payment of the tolled routes be ended. Firefighters’ volunteers have spent 21 days without truce or pause, putting out fires mainly in banks, pharmacies and supermarkets. Also the volunteers of the health system do not manage to find rest between so much one-eyed, wounded and beaten as a result of the police brutality.
As a living being that is mutating, this wave of protests extended yesterday in Santiago from the Centre to the neighborhood of Providencia, producing excesses that alarmed the small merchants and residents, until the mayoress got to the end of her tether and was not ashamed to show herself in a state of total alteration directing the traffic herself and declaring that “the neighbours are going to arm themselves”. It was a true explosion of anger that fuelled the ire of the more affluent zone. And today it continues, summoned as “a visit to the oasis”, since [President] Piñera pointed out a few days before the evasion of the Metro turnstiles began that Chile “is an oasis, compared to the other countries of the Region”.
Today’s calendar foresees the following demonstrations only in the capital: – 10:00 a.m. from Metro Tobalaba to Rotonda Pérez Zujovic, ANEF March to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) – Central Santiago 11:00 a.m. Ahumada with Orphans, Demonstration. – Vitacura 11:00 a.m. PAHO/WHO Headquarters (Dag Hammarskjold 3269), Demonstration for health. Metro Tobalaba meeting point. – Santiago 11.00 a.m. Frontis National Institute, Secondary student concentration. – San Joaquín 11.00 a.m. Outside Metro San Joaquín, March against student repression. – Providencia 11:30 a.m. Sculpture Park, in front of Costanera Centre. March of suits and ties. – La Florida 14.00 hours Mall Florida Center, White Claw Protest inside the Mall. – Las Condes 17.00 hours Metro Tobalaba to Manquehue, March to the East – Great tour to the oasis. – Ñuñoa 17.00 hours Metro Plaza Egaña, Massive Evasion. – Santiago 17.00 hours Plaza Italia, Call and March. – La Florida 18:00 hours from metro Los Quillayes to Paradero 14 Vicuña Mackenna Territorial March. – Peñalolén 20:00 hours Plaza Mártires de Peñalolén, Popular Mobilization.
While all this is happening, the President has announced that he will promote a package of measures which he has called “Public Order Agenda” and whose main points are the following:
1. Anti-Vandalism Law.
2. anti hood wearing bill.
3. Law against barricades or similar that hinder free circulation.
4. a team of lawyers from the Ministry of the Interior to file a complaint.
5. special team of prosecutors, carabineros, Police Investigations body for police intelligence.
6. increased air capacity of carabineros andPolice Investigations body.
7. Reinforce the capacity of citizen denunciations for criminal prosecution of vandalismo. Complaints on the PDI and Carabineros websites.
8. Protection status for law enforcement and security forces. Carabineros, Policía de Investigaciones and gendarmería.
9. discussion of a bill to modernize and strengthen the national intelligence system.
10. Urgent bill to modernize carabineros and PDI.
For its part, the Chilean Association of Municipalities was mandated by the mayors and councilmen to hold a national consultation on December 7 in search of a solution to the issues being demanded by citizens, to listen directly to the voice of the people in a transparent and democratic process. Among the issues that will be consulted are the following:
– Whether or not a new Constitution is needed for Chile.
– Prioritize the social demands most felt by citizens (pensions, health, equality, salaries, basic services, transportation, security, environment, indigenous peoples, water, corruption and abuse, among others).
– Each region may incorporate topics of interest specific to the region.
The Chilean Association of Municipalities will try to generate a space for dialogue with the participation of social organizations and the different powers of the State in order to reach the necessary agreements for the construction of a more just Chile. The local authorities also made a strong call to repudiate the acts of violence that the country is experiencing as well as to investigate and punish any violation of human rights.
The resolution was the product of a national assembly in which mayors and councillors from all regions of the country met to evaluate the different dialogue initiatives that are being developed: town councils, citizen dialogues or meetings of civil society throughout the national territory.
The photo-repotaje is by Riccardo Marinai:
Translation Pressenza London