Freedom News

We are doing our part: a letter from comrade in Chile

This text was sent to Freedom News by a comrade from Chile. It comes with trigger warning for rape and violence.

We have been almost a week with the military on the streets. I’ve been wanting to write for days, but it is tough to do so. So much going on, so much information going around … I  wanted to do a count of deaths and tortures but there are no official numbers, and they block many of the websites that are supposed to bring in that information.

Some said 18 deaths, some more than 50, some say 12 women have been raped, some that it was sexual abuse, some mention 121 people that disappeared, some institutions like National Institute of Human Rights (INDH in Spanish) don’t say that on their daily recount.

The numbers given by the INDH on October 25th at 10pm were that 3,162 people got arrested (413 for firearms possession), and 997 people were wounded. Even though those are the most “official” numbers, many working in hospitals or attending to people on the streets during riots fear that the number may be way higher. They don’t give their own numbers however, since they are on call attending to the wounded and they don’t  have time for counting inbetween the chaos.

There are also significant concerns regarding the official death toll sometimes mentioned on TV, which by this point has lost all credibility. But it is not possible — or maybe just extremely hard — to find any other sources that would typically make such information public. 

We may not know the official number, but we for sure have endless testimonies and videos of all kinds of horrors that are happening, and the count is ongoing:

One of the things that surprised me was when a friend told me that they found a woman they knew hanging from a grid with her clothes poorly put on, signs of rape and torture … They left her in sight for many hours, so people would know what happens to those who dare to fight… later that day someone sent me the picture.

There is another video of someone looking for their friend, or loved one, I don’t know, down a metro station … you can hear a voice shouting from a blocked corridor that it is on fire, the people who posed the video said that the police left them there and burned the station. We know of people, including underage teens, who were hung by handcuffs from a police station … we are sadly full of those stories.

We may not know the numbers, and it doesn’t really matter anymore if they are 10 or 1,000 — there are too many.  

Even though the horrors are getting worse day after day, on the TV they just keep talking about “vandalism”.

Every day, there are more and more people protesting on the streets. At first, the protests would start at 5pm, then 2pm, then 12pm, and now some of them are convocated for 11 or 10am, with people resisting on the streets even past the curfew [NB// the curfew was officially lifted yesterday amid the rising pressure]. 

Some have the privilege to be in a beautiful park with some music saying that they are tired of the injustice. Some are at the city centre confronting riot police. Some others, in the streets of their humble neighbourhoods, are getting shot by the military while fighting for dignity. Or getting arrested, without warning, taken straight from their homes. Even some Narcos have started shooting soldiers in their neighbourhoods.

The country is rising up against inequality, and we can see that inequality very clearly by the different actions that people apply to protest and the different reactions that the military and police use to oppress them.

It is hard to know these days what is true and what is not. Some say that the government just spent over 50 million pesos (£54,000) on riot gun cartridges, some others that they are planning autogalope coup, so they can justify the violent repression of freedoms. It is hard to say, but we are certain that the military violence is not getting any better, and even the untrustworthy official numbers say so. 

The TV and official media are getting harder to trust every day — not that they ever were very reliable — showing all the obvious signs of mass manipulation exposed by Noam Chomsky. First, they generate distractions from the demands being made by putting an emphasis on “vandalism”. Then they show the looting of supermarkets and shops — in some cases homemade videos show the military and police are letting people conduct them, or have even participated. Then, they say that most military-caused deaths are from them defending shops from “villains”. Or they show the appearance of calcined bodies that still have some visible shooting marks but are exposed on TV as deaths from fire provoked by rioters.

The big fires occurred at metro stations where, at the time, there were no police.  Buses burned in the city centre were not even on their routes and offer clear proof that a strategy is being enacted by the government to create more chaos so they can ignore popular demands and justify the violence. 

There are even some videos of military troops playing football with protesters to try to whitewash their image, which has been so damaged and exposed on social media.  There is also a video where civilians and soldiers are hugging and making peace — an event which was followed by shooting from the military against those people.  

Other strategies that have been applied are aimed at pitting people against each other, using an initiative that started from working-class neighbourhoods which involved putting on a yellow jacket to clean up and support neighbours through the difficult times. It is now used by the media to highlight “the people who are looking for peace and cleaning the town because they want everything to go back to normal”.

We may not know the numbers, we may not know, from all the information circulating on traditional or social media, what is really what now. But we do know that no real solution has been given by the government, that the repression and state violence is getting worse every day, and that the only people we can genuinely trust right now are ourselves: the people that united to fight against injustice.

A woman in her 50s told me, as we were taking refuge behind a kiosk from the water cannon being fired by police: “They have taken so much from us that they took away the fear, and now we are not going to stop”. It’s a well-known phrase in Latin America that you hear a lot here these days.

Even with the military on the street and with the repression being worse every day, more than 1,500,000 people in Santiago, 50,000 in Concepción, another 50,000 in Valparaíso and thousands more in the rest of the country marched together in La Marcha Más Grande de Chile (the biggest march in Chile); an auto convocated march with no “political colours”.

We may not be able to topple the neoliberal system by ourselves, but we are, for sure, doing our part.

Victoria Malbrich Roberts

All photos by Mirko Yuras

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