The reality is that Chile has quickly caught up with the most insecure countries on the continent. It is a thing of the past that we were “the happy copy of Eden”, according to our national anthem, or that pretentious idea of being an exception in Latin America in terms of the disorders caused by drug trafficking and organised crime. Nor do we now escape phenomena such as political, business and police corruption.
Every day, the media are awakened by the news of the severe insurrection in Araucanía. A confrontation that claims lives every day and devastates the installations occupied by forestry companies and others that have taken property from the Mapuche, the country’s main ethnic group. These were areas already recognised by the Spanish conquistadors and whose demarcations afterwards were accepted by O’Higgins and the first republican governments.
Some call it an uprising, others call it a civil war, but what cannot be ignored is that, in the Wallmapu and the so-called macro-southern zone, violence reigns, the use of increasingly lethal weapons, and the police are already incapable of dealing with the anger of an ethnic group that no longer demands not only social justice, but territorial and political autonomy. It is for this reason that there are many who believe that the state should declare a state of emergency that allows the armed forces to be stationed there and, if necessary, to repress as was done in the past during the sadly remembered “Pacification of Araucanía”. A massacre or genocide that culminated with the installation in the area of a large number of foreign investors who, in addition to razing the native forest, consolidated their interests and iniquitous exploitation of the sea, rivers and lakes of one of the most beautiful and peaceful landscapes on Earth.
The question today is how long Gabriel Boric’s leftist government will take to overcome its modesty and internal contradictions to commit the military to control this troubled area, even if only by declaring a state of emergency to euphemistically avoid the surname “emergency” or “state of siege”. Nor is it certain that the uniformed forces are willing to do, once again, the “dirty work” that has brought so much discredit on the Armed Forces, which are experts in fighting their own countrymen and women, the so-called “internal enemy”, rather than confronting foreign threats that have not been present for more than a century.
But it is from the north to the south of the country that other insecurities plague, spurred fundamentally by the meagre incomes of the vast majority of workers, which has made it easier for drug cartels to take over entire neighbourhoods and communities where it has become extremely dangerous to pass through day or night without running the risk of being assaulted or even killed by organised gangs, who will kill even for just a mobile phone. In addition to those spectacular robberies, burglaries and car thefts, the victims are usually women and the elderly. It is not for nothing that the truck drivers have decided to take over the country’s main highways to demand that the authorities guarantee their safety, afterwards the daily burning of their machinery and sources of work. They are also unhappy about the abusive toll charges on the concessioned roads and the abrupt rise in fuel prices. But the truth is that not only for hauliers, but for everyone, travelling around the country is too expensive, as well as too dangerous.
In the last few days, not even the Minister of Defence escaped an assault and robbery at her home, and a policeman from President Boric’s guard was kidnapped, robbed, shot and left far away from his home. The idea that “anyone can get hurt” has already taken hold in the population as a whole… whether they are travelling by car or on foot.
If we were to make a detailed count, we could conclude that there are hundreds of educational establishments in “occupation” that demand resources for their performance and also security. There are many teachers threatened by their pupils, as well as shopkeepers all over the country who live in fear of assaults and the presence of thousands of street vendors who set up wherever they want and use firearms to protect their spaces. To the point of recruiting common criminals as vigilantes, who have already caused multiple homicides and, recently, that of a young journalist killed while covering a brawl between the enemy gangs of informal commerce.
Avenues and squares, underground stations and buses are also banditted and reduced to ashes by gangs of assailants who express their displeasure with the most senseless destruction, and whose perpetrators are very rarely arrested by the police. Countless assaults do not even get the witnesses to these events to testify before the prosecutors, due to the widespread distrust of the carabineros and investigators of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, whom they believe to be bribed by criminals and drug traffickers.
The brazenness of organised crime is such that gangsters in a popular commune built a mausoleum in a communal square to bury one of their bosses. It was sad to observe the impotence of the corresponding mayor, who only managed to demand more police from La Moneda to deal with the criminals who, like other municipalities in Latin America, control the lives of their inhabitants.
It is true that, despite the constant increase in the numbers and deterrent resources of the Carabineros and the civil police, our entire territory is overflowing with violence and fear. Just as the prisons are overcrowded with common criminals who will soon return to the streets to commit crimes, thanks to those judges who are complicit in the crime or who are too “guaranteeing”, as some prefer to call them.
The recent increase in the minimum wage has already gone up in smoke, considering that the most essential products have increased in price by 30 to 40 percent in a matter of a few months, which has burdened the majority of the country’s households without the so-called political class knowing what to do to mitigate the profound discontent in which, according to polls, more than half the country has already lost confidence in the new president of the Republic. Moreover, those in favour of a new Constitution and those who prefer to extend the Pinochet-Lagos Constitution seem to be in a dead heat and it is feared that, whatever the result of the exit plebiscite, there will be no Magna Carta widely agreed by the people. Nor will it be an expression of the “house of all”, as was once claimed.
And it is not necessarily the case that the contents defined by the Constituent Convention may be unsatisfactory; what is more likely is that many citizens will go to the polls to express their dissatisfaction with the economic and social promises that have been postponed or that they feel have not been fulfilled. They will vote against the new constitutional text to express their weariness with the chaos that prevails throughout the country. Where wealth is still more concentrated than ever and the purchasing power of the majority continues to deteriorate.
Where life is increasingly insecure and solutions are becoming more complex; when, to top it all off, political vices such as party-political quotas, the collusion of businessmen, or the impunity of corrupt officials continue to reign supreme. All this is exacerbated by the inability of the political class to reach agreements, even if only to face the harsh winter weather or to halt the rise in the price of bread, the main food staple of the population, which has doubled in price in just two or three months. Many observers fear a new social outburst, this time in the form of a rebellion, as called for by the prominent Mapuche leader Héctor LLaitul. In a statement that absolutely defies the norms of our imaginary rule of law, how much its State Security Law.
With governments of all political colours taking turns in power, many think that solutions to social demands are overdue. Powerful corporations will continue to rule, and greedy pension and private health administrators will continue to raid the pockets of the poorest and most vulnerable. Nor can the rot that is perpetuated in the trade unions be trusted. They have long been on their knees and financed by political and employers’ leaders.
Disappointment is already “becoming a habit”, as they used to say about our chronic injustice, and although the new inhabitants of La Moneda claim that they have only just settled in and that they need more time, the truth is that the urgencies can no longer wait, nor do they want to.