This text was sent to Freedom by our comrades in Chile. It is a summary of the events in the country in recent days and a call for support.
After the Chilean government announced that they would raise the price of the metro, last week the high school students started a massive elude of payment as a form of protest. The government’s answer to this protest was to dismiss it, saying that the ticket prices for students are to remain the same. Hence the government is entirely oblivious to the solidarity students were showing with their families, who are the ones to suffer from the increase. Finally, on 18th October, the students started neutralizing the metro ticket machines since their voice wasn’t being heard.
By 5pm that day, people began to join the protest in the streets of Chile’s capital Santiago. No one has called on them to do so: it was a self-convocated action of thousands of people who got tired of being constantly abused by their government and decided to protest on the street; leaving their workplaces, their homes, their universities, to march to the centre of the city and let the government know that they aren’t going to take it any more.
By 6pm, the main metro line was not operating. There was nothing more for people to do other than walk: and so they did.
The riot police were not prepared to control so many groups of people in so many different places. By 7pm, it wasn´t just the centre. People went to the streets in their neighbourhoods to make barricades and to make noise, especially with an old technique learned in the dictatorship known as “cacerolazo” (in which people repeatedly hit a cooking pot in the form of protest); and in some cases to burn their local metro station.
During the evening, the situation was impossible to control by the government. The riot police from other cities was brought to Santiago, and they started to shoot at the rioters with birdshot.
Around midnight, the government declared martial law in Santiago and announced that they were ordering the military to put order on the streets. By 2am on Saturday, the soldiers were already on the streets of Santiago.
This rage has its root in something much deeper than the mere ticket price increase. It’s linked to the fact the Chilean living wage is the lowest in OCDE countries. The country’s minimum monthly salary is only £327, all while the politicians in the congress get £9,592.05. In addition to this, the pensions are also low; the public health system is very precarious, the education is bad and expensive.
Because the list of injustice is so long, many other cities started to join the riots, forcing the riot police that was sent to Santiago to return back. The government began to be afraid, and so they announced a curfew for different cities. On Saturday night, the curfew was at 10pm, and then on Sunday, it began at 7pm. Despite this, people are still going to the streets to protest, make noise, light barricades and keep the “cacerolazos” going.
The country’s media are continually showing images of people looting shops and houses, burned buses (that later we knew where not really in service… very suspicious) and some other “scary, chaotic images”. All with some apocalyptic music in the background and a logo “Estado de Emergencia”. In the meantime, broadcasting from abroad is shut down. It is not only a joke compared to what is happening right now, but also a way to boost fear, so the government can justify the people who are missing and the deaths that are happening (officially 11 that we know of so far).
The government has announced that they will freeze the price of the metro, being too blind to see that the problem right now it is not “the 30 pesos but the 30 years” of abuse that the people of the country have suffered.
Despite the fact the city has collapsed, many stores have closed, and public transportation is not working; protests are continuing. This morning people have been calling everyone to riot, many workers and cities have joined the social fight; the militaries are on the streets waiting for the riots to happen and ready to shoot, the social media is slowly being blocked, and many people are afraid of what may happen.
We are in a great need of international support and solidarity since what it’s coming next is uncertain.
Victoria Malbrich Roberts
Abril Ortiz Depaux