Chile’s Social Organizations Convene Constituent Assembly

More than 50 leaders and social organizations from all over Chile convened on Tuesday, Oct. 22, to form a new social pact through a Constituent Assembly, amid protests and popular demonstrations in rejection of the neoliberal measures in force in this country by President Sebastián Piñera.

Among the promoters of the Constituent are the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the Colegio de Profesores, the Confederación Nacional de Federaciones de Pescadores Artesanales de Chile, Cumbre de los Pueblos, Corporación Humanas, among others.

They stressed that the political class is “guilty of having been an instrument for the establishment of a model based on abuse,” which considers social rights as lucrative business opportunities.

This initiative coincides with the announcement by President Sebastián Piñera, on national television, about meetings he will hold with leaders of ruling and opposition parties to address the social crisis in the country.

However, on Twitter, the CUT announced a general strike to be held on Wednesday, joined by multiple organizations and social movements grouped around the Social Unity table, a call also made by mining and port unions in Chile, in support of popular protests against Piñera’s government, which have been strongly repressed by the army and military police.

According to the National Institute of Human Rights, since last Thursday, October 17, when the protests began, 1,420 people have been reported detained by the police and at least 84 have been wounded by firearms. Additionally, it denounced that minors suffered injuries during detentions, characterized by the excessive use of force and in some cases, sexual abuse.

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Chilean Protests in Summary

Andrea Rausseo

The protests in Chile in 2019 are attributed to an increase in the public transport system that went into effect last October 6, in response to this measure Chilean students went out to demonstrate in the streets of the country’s capital, Santiago de Chile. The protests spread to the nation’s main cities such as Valparaíso and Concepción.

-October 13 to 16: Students and other users of the Santiago Metro staged massive evasions from the payment of the fare, protesting against the increase in the price of this public transport service.

-October 18: Hundreds of young Chileans mobilized in the country, calling for “massive evasion” in the payment of the underground system. According to media reports, state security forces repressed the demonstration, leaving six people injured.

That same day, President Sebastián Piñera decreed a state of emergency in several provinces of the country and announced the beginning of a dialogue to debate the increase in the fare of transport tickets.

-October 19: The head of Chile’s National Defense, Javier Iturriaga del Campo, announced a curfew in Santiago.

Faced with the unrest generated, the nation’s capital dawned protected by military, specifically the provinces of Santiago and Chacabuco where the state of emergency was applied by the president.

For its part, the Port Union of Chile called for a general strike in the framework of the social mobilizations that were taking place.

Subsequently, Piñera reported on the national chain the suspension of the increase of the Metro passages.

-October 20: The mayor of the metropolitan region, Karla Rubilar, reported the death of three people during the protests after a fire in a supermarket in the city of San Bernardo, during the protests.

Iturriaga del Campo announced a new curfew in the Metropolitan region and the communes of Puente Alto and San Bernardo, Santiago de Chile (capital), which hundreds of Chileans challenged.

Chile’s Chamber of Deputies approved the bill presented by President Sebastián Piñera, which cancels the increase in subway fares.

-October 21: Chilean mining and port unions called for a general strike in support of demonstrations against Piñera’s government.

Local authorities reported that 11 people were killed in the protests. Police forces continue to repress the mobilization.

The School of Journalism of the University of Chile issued a statement criticizing the coverage and focus of open television channels in the context of the massive demonstrations.

-October 22nd: The number of deaths during the day of mobilizations increases to 17.

The National Prosecutor’s Office of Chile indicated that more than 5,400 people were detained.

President Piñera announced a series of economic and political measures to contain the protests.

October 23: The Chilean people are scheduled to begin a 24-hour general strike this Wednesday.

Why so much impact in Chile before the increase of the ticket of the subway?

It should be noted that the minimum wage in Chile is 301,000 pesos (US$423) while, according to Chile’s National Statistics Institute, half of the workers in that country receive a wage equal to or less than 400,000 pesos (US$562) a month.

With this salary, protesters claim that a rise in the subway fare is inconceivable.

The price of the railway system rose from 800 to 830 pesos during peak hours – representing an increase of US$1.13 to US$1.17 – which will impact the 2.8 million users who travel daily with this means of transport.

Translation by Internationalist 360°