Basta! Mass protests of discontent: An interview with Patrick Vasquez from Chileans United - Government - Mondaq Chile - Mondaq Business Briefing - Books and Journals - VLEX 821931765

Basta! Mass protests of discontent: An interview with Patrick Vasquez from Chileans United

Author:Mr Paul Gregoire
Profession:Sydney Criminal Lawyers

Over a million people took to the streets in downtown Santiago on 25 October, bringing a halt to major parts of the city to demand that the reactionary Piñera government bring about structural reforms in a South American nation known for its wealth, but also its social inequality.

As night fell, and many left the rally to return home before an emergency curfew kicked in, the scene turned violent. Authorities began using teargas and water cannons upon demonstrators. Indeed, president Sebastián Piñera had already declared he was at war with his people.

This mass demonstration followed weeks of protests that began with high school student-led metro station protests over an increase in public transport fares. But, following the scrapping of the price hike, the rallies continued as the makeup and demands of participants had broadened.

As unionists, tertiary students and a large number of the working class joined the movement - citing long standing grievances - a state of emergency was called on 18 October, and an agitprop campaign framed those involved in the unrest as arsonists and looters.

Free market repressions

Yet, last Friday's turnout of more than 5 percent of the Chilean population meant that classing the movement as some kind of criminal operation could no longer hold. And what's been brought to the fore is that large numbers of the population aren't stopping until they see substantial change.

Reports on the ground now suggest the involvement of the military and police in coordinated vandalism. And while reports differ, it's likely that government forces have killed dozens of people, arrested around 7,000, and it's also been said that over 100 have been disappeared.

Chile is often hailed as a South American economic miracle. But, while the 1 percent may be benefiting from its neoliberal market, reports have found that 50 percent of Chilean workers are on extremely low wages. So, a 4 percent public transport price hike would be felt.

The Piñera government only came to office in March last year. However, right-wing leader Sebastián Piñera has held the position of president before, over a four year period ending in 2014. And on Monday, as a further concession to demonstrators, he sacked eight of his cabinet ministers.

Suena y seras libre en espiritu

Of course, this is not the first time such a crackdown has occurred in Chile. The first September 11 took place in 1973, when the Allende government was overthrown by a military coup...

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