Chile: “We Stand Before a Social Powder Keg and the Revolt Will Continue”

Carlos Aznarez
https://video-images.vice.com/articles/5dbc8561c7920b008ca98017/lede/1572636002059-Chile.jpeg?crop=1xw:0.6xh;center,centerChile and its Revolt are still in the news, beyond the fierce local censorship and the absence of the international press. They try by all means to hide the fact that here, in the midst of the iron-fisted dictatorship of Piñera and his uniformed mafia of carabineros and militiamen, there are people who resist Covid, hunger and fascism. To get a better understanding of the situation, we interviewed Leandro T., member of the Patriotic Movement Manuel Rodríguez (MPMR), director of the website “El Rodriguista” and also of the radio station of the same name, both alternative media consulted by people who want to know what is happening with the Revolt in Chile, what is happening with the community and how the popular movements are doing in their struggle against Sebastían Piñera. We spoke with Leandro about the two days of protest last July 2 and 3.

We would like to ask you for an assessment of these last days, July 2nd and 3rd, which we have been following closely here at Resumen Latinoamericano, since it was a really important day of protest.

Yes, very important because the government, the system, the power elite of Chile has made a great effort to take advantage of the issue of the pandemic and extinguish social protest, to sow fear and generate a repressive state with the military in the streets, curfews, and laws. In fact, this has accomplished a certain amount of work, disciplining the social movement through the official media that has put this particular fear in the air. On July 2 and 3, this situation was broken in a large part of the country through a protest, not at the level of those of October last year, but at an important level considering the situation of the pandemic. There were mobilizations from Arica to Punta Arenas, passing through all the cities. Here in the Metropolitan region, there were massive demonstrations, pots and pans, and confrontations with repressive forces, both police and military, which is undoubtedly a turning point in the midst of the pandemic. Now, this has continued over the past weekend, on July 4 and 5, particularly in Valparaiso there have been protests in the porteño hills, as well as in different parts of the country. Therefore, we would definitely make a positive assessment in terms of breaking the status quo because of the needs that exist.

Everything indicates that the economic situation plus the Covid make up an explosive cocktail in today’s Chile.

There is a brutal economic and social crisis in Chile, Resumen Latinoamericano has also given an account of the economic situation, it was bad and now it is worse. Massive layoffs, labor laws that favor the employers and harm the workers and the people. With the impossibility, that many, from the informal economy, who work in markets, cannot earn their daily bread. So there is a dramatic social situation, and the government with the measures it has imposed, are piecemeal measures and all business. These days a project has come out for the so-called middle class, workers who have a better economic situation than the most impoverished, and what it will bring is more debt. They make it easier for people to continue to get into debt. There are no social solutions. We have to find a way out. We will see how this situation develops, because there is nothing left to do. Let us hope that this will lead to greater levels of protest to force the authorities of this country, who are extremely mean and perverse, to make fundamental changes.

One thing that caught our attention during these days of protest is that somewhere in the middle, they realized that the army was acquiring weapons to confront “a possible urban guerrilla”. Obviously this is a good excuse to continue to arm themselves. But do you think it is likely that as the struggle continues to grow there will be such a level of repression that the army will be able to participate, as it has done these days in enforcing the curfew?

What happens is that after the October revolts, in mid-November, particularly, in my personal opinion, maybe not shared by everyone, there was a kind of soft coup by the power elite. They got scared. Seeing the levels of power of the revolt, the sheer massiveness, taking to the streets. They could no longer rule. Governance was questioned, that’s beyond doubt. And the power elite, including the military, the so-called political class, which in reality is a political caste, the businessmen, all of those who have been leading neoliberalism in Chile, agreed to look at how to stop the situation, to take the upper hand again. A first aspect of this so-called soft coup was this truculent political agreement, of the political caste, a plebiscite to try to pacify the revolt. Other measures they took involved police and military action. This measure was to remove the power of Intelligence in Chile, the directive of the national agency of Intelligence, the ANI, called the Intelligence of Carabineros, the armed forces, were removed. They also took measures to buy arms at different levels, and began to bid for contracts in the Navy, the Army, the Air Force and, of course, the Carabineros. Buying weapons to subdue the revolt, but the revolt was still beyond control, in a manner of speaking, and it acquired a higher level, and everything indicated that it was heading that way. Therefore, the preparation of the Armed Forces has been based on the experience of the current Chilean military occupation of Haiti.

For several years in Haiti, there have been corruption scandals, contacts with Colombia and the Americans. In fact, here there is an American base in Concon, which trains the Armed Forces to carry out repression. Not only for the defense of the country, in inverted commas, but also for what they call the internal enemy. And now the internal enemy has appeared, which is the mobilized people. Therefore, they have been preparing themselves, they have updated the Military Operative Theatre, and the pandemic has served them well, because they have been able to update all their commands. Even the whole crisis of corruption within the armed forces was united around the internal enemy. We must also consider that there is a real guerrilla group of native peoples and Mapuche people, which in particular has been increasing its armed and paramilitary actions, in order to drive out the Spanish loggers and those from other countries in the south of the country. Therefore, the military have updated the way in which they are going to confront a major social conflict that is undoubtedly coming in this country.

I’m interested in the last thing you said, the south is militarized, we already know that, action groups have emerged, from the Mapuche who are clearly carrying out guerrilla actions. How do you see, from Santiago de Chile, this Mapuche south that is so agitated that it is demanding not only the expulsion of the loggers, but also self-determination?

There is something in the middle, related to the alternative powers that are being born in Chile. An expression from the popular movement. It’s something new from the last 40 or 50 years, or more, I refer to the last century and the present. This radicalized military expression of Mapuche comrades has appeared. They are engaged in a policy of harassment of large companies that occupy their territories and the objective they have set is to drive them from their lands. In a process, as defined by Hector Llaitul, the spokesperson for the CAM (Coordinadora Allauco Malleco) and other leaders who are not so well known, of a long term resistance. According to their policy, we must also consider that the South has been militarized for years and that the expressions of this revolt were not the most radical, so to speak. If one analyzes the strong protests of October and November in Santiago, in the north, in Antofagasta, or these days in Valparaiso and compares them to those in the south, one can see that they were not as strong there. Senator Huechumilla himself, a Christian Democrat of Mapuche origin, but a member of the power elite, boasted that his region was where the least social revolt had occurred, considering the situation. So I would say that it is a parallel process, they come together of course, and they feed off each other and have different characteristics. The expression of the Mapuche struggle has a long history, that radicalized expression of these years to which we aspire that the Chilean people take reference with levels of protagonism. Now that guerrilla warfare is possible in Chile, from the perspective of the Chilean people, there are difficulties. I cannot see it clearly. Particularly, because the Chilean people have awakened, in a multifaceted way, their expression of protest, I believe is going to be like that in the coming months. But it faces a great difficulty, which is a popular myth in formation, that this formation is not enough to be an alternative of power, so to speak, I do not know if it will reach maturity in this cycle. It will mature, of course, either in this time or in the coming years. But starting from the fact that the Marxist left or the one that pretends to be Marxist, in which I inscribe myself in a self-critical way, has neither a hegemony in the popular movement nor a capacity to articulate as it should. In order for the bourgeois to leave, there has to be a power to replace them, they will not leave, they have to be thrown out. What is the people’s power that is going to replace the power of the elites? We will see that in the future. Chilean Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera, in an interview with Spanish newspaper El País last year, described Chile’s social protest as a post-modern protest from his viewpoint, which is the view of the government. Because there is no one to dialogue with, no one to negotiate with as in the old conceptions of social conflict. So it is something new, where there is leadership of the people, the people are the vanguard of the vanguard. That is the crisis that the left has. In my left, to which I belong as a popular activist, there is a spirit of revolt, but that revolt still cannot and does not take place in powerful social coordinations that can be an alternative of power, that raise a political program. There are demands by millions, but there is no one who can lead them. It is difficult, there is no one leadership, there are multiple leaderships, but each leadership is also from the popular movement, they are rich and they are its power. This revolt does not recognize a single leadership, it recognizes action, protest.

Maybe that is the paradox, maybe it is the richness of that movement that is also the deficit. We are between the richness of the heterogeneity in the streets, in the protest and the deficit of not converging in the political organization that can displace the government and the system. I have heard you say, when I was in Chile, that the fall of Piñera will not be solved just because the system always has replacements.

Our analysis is that in the short term, I do not say a month, I say a year, I do not know, neoliberalism is exhausted, in particular because there is a global change of era. Economies such as Chile’s have enormous relationships with the whole world, where nothing is Chilean, so to speak. Imagine that the beans that we produced for all Chileans up to the time of the dictatorship, the 80s, and today, based on a government quota, had to be bought from Canada and also Argentina. That Chilean saying that the beans are Chilean is a lie. Beans are produced elsewhere; we have an open economy that is no longer sustainable. The new capitalism, the one that is coming, or the new societies that are coming, we do not have the capacity to produce anything. In this country there is no industry, everything is monoculture. Fishing, forestry, and mining continue to function, because what is in crisis is the internal economy. There is a world crisis and Chilean-style neoliberalism has no place, so there has to be transformation. The problem is what this transformation is, what is post-neoliberalism and what has to be thrown away. There is still a process that needs to happen. But suppose it happens, as I believe it will because of a revolt, or because of the situation, the changes that are happening in the world, the problem is about what replaces it. So far, we are without a popular alternative of change, the same system is going to replace it. This welfare state, which is not the previous welfare state, and that is what the Colombian-type military, the Israeli-type military, the United States-type military are preparing for. That is where the issue is at stake. Here everything depends on the revolutionaries, on the people who want a real, deep change; it is what alternative of power as a popular movement we will be in a position to give to this situation. Because the people of Chile are in revolt, they have become conscious but they are, like each one of us, full of contradictions. For example, a few days ago, there was a mobilization of forest workers in the south demanding the rule of law. The workers were protesting, because they had been burned by the Mapuche rebel forces, by certain forestry companies. This type of problem has also happened with other workers in other places, or with settlers in Cartagena who have also denounced the people on the street, knowing that they were doing it out of necessity. So the power of the Chilean people is in dispute. Unfortunately, it has the capacity to manoeuvre, but that is due to the weakness in our ability to create alternatives. The crisis is huge, but not every crisis necessarily ends in profound changes, because the system has the capacity to manoeuvre.

Finally, what are the people of the revolt going to do, if they are going to do anything, with regard to the October plebiscite to say ‘I approve or I do not approve’ of the change to this Pinochet Constitution that still exists.

There are different views, I think the pandemic brought about a new situation. Before the pandemic, the popular sector of the rebellion, who were mobilized, clearly considered that we were facing a fraud, a manoeuvre by the political caste who wanted to be the solution. And we in Chile know, because we feel it, it is in our emotions, our vision, our analysis, that nothing good will come from the current political caste. The majority, including the most progressive, are people who are in politics for business. They are not there to make fundamental changes and anyone feels positive, which perhaps some will, is a prisoner of a system designed for that purpose, for business politics. Bad politics, so to speak. But also, the guys are intelligent, they have had a significant effect on the media and on the feelings of an important part of the Chilean people who have participated in the revolt, who no longer love Piñera and want change, who see the alternative option as voting for “approval”. This has also been a kind of popular “approval”. People who think, with no confidence in these guys, that we should vote for such changes. So, the problem is going to be how that process happens. Whether it’s a process of participating in the plebiscite with revolt or the plebiscite without revolt. Obviously those of us who see a fraud, are going to continue with the revolt. And the popular sector that believes that by voting they can make some changes, will also continue with the revolt. The revolt has to continue yes or yes. Voting or not voting. It’s the key to making the fundamental changes. To throw neoliberalism out, the rest is a lie. We will see. It’s in a process. The pandemic, supposedly, is going to diminish, but as for the situation of restriction and this real military police state we are living with a commander in chief named Piñera, they are going to pretend that all these coercive measures will continue. And in the village, this will most likely not be tolerated. If we ask ourselves what kind of mobilization situation we will be in at the end of August or in September, I think it is not going to decline. Everything indicates that the plebiscite (if it is held at all) will take place in the midst of a social upheaval, because the economic problems that have been exacerbated by the pandemic will be brutal. Here the employers have said that many of these labour suspensions are going to be permanent, they are not going to hire more people and they are going to try to take labour flexibility to the maximum. We stand before a social powder keg, the system, the political caste are manoeuvring themselves and the people must continue to mobilize. From the social sector to which I belong, at least, from the spiritual, political and organic point of view, we have to risk it for a change. However, I insist that change requires alternatives, something people have difficulty understanding.