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Chile: Right-wing government deploys military against protesting youth

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

Tens of thousands of people are protesting in Chile, South America. The protests were triggered rise the price of underground tickets by president Piñera’s conservative government. Now the masses are taking to the streets against his neoliberal government that impoverished thousands while benefiting a few businessmen and friends of Piñera. The population has had enough of it.

Original Article Date: 21 October 2019

At midnight on October 4, the protests began. In the subway stations, hundreds of passengers ignored the ticket controls and boarded the trains without a ticket. The reason: On the same day, the Chilean Ministry of Transport announced that they would increase the prices for the subway ticket. Although the price increase was relatively small, it was the tipping point that made people take to the streets. The fare increase became a symbol of President Piñera’s neoliberal politics. Politics for the few not the many.

Protests are spreading

In the days that followed, the protests spread. More and more people followed the slogan EVADE, which roughly translate to avoid: They simply did not buy subway tickets anymore. The government reacted by closing subway stations and sending military police to the ones still open. The harsh actions of the police though only led to a further escalation of the protests.

In the capital Santiago de Chile and other major cities of the country, there were demonstrations and clashes with the police. At the height of the clashes, demonstrators set fire to the headquarters of the Italian energy company Enel. Enel had announced the free modernization of all electricity meters in the central region, only to sneak the costs into the customers’ bill later.

Social inequality is rampant in Chile

Social inequality in Chile is extreme. Ten percent of the population shares 66.5 percent of Chile’s net income, while 50 percent of the poorest families share just 2.1 percent. These families suffer under President Piñera’s neoliberal policies. They can no longer afford health care and education.

In addition, there is corruption. For example, the police are accused of embezzling large amounts of tax money and working closely with drug cartels. Furthermore, large companies, such as the financial giant Penta, have bribed important politicians for years in order to obtain better business conditions.

The youth stands up

Against all this, the population is now revolting. They want a fairer Chile, not a playground for rich entrepreneurs and corrupt politicians. While students are the leaders of the protests, they are heavily supported by trade unions and the civil society. The unions have announced a general strike on Monday 21 October.

Although the government has withdrawn the price increase for subway tickets, conservative President Piñera is not prepared to make more profound changes. He comes from a wealthy family and is a billionaire himself. Because he also had a television empire before his presidency, he was often referred to as the Chilean Berlusconi.

His government reacts to the protests with an iron fist. Piñera described the riots as a “war” and the demonstrators as a “powerful, irreconcilable enemy”. His Minister of the Interior declared a state of emergency and has the military patrol the capital Santiago. This has not happened since Pinochet’s military dictatorship. To crush the protests, military police used brutal force against the protesters, hunted them down, and made huge numbers of arrests.

To the Media: Don’t Be an Accomplice!

The protesting people defend themselves against the media presentation of the protests as chaotic and violent.

Chile’s social inequality based on Pinochet dictatorship

The Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected socialist president Salvador Allende in 1973. He cancel all popular social reforms of Allende’s presidency. Under Pinochet’s rule, the country would become a laboratory for neoliberalism. To achieve his goals, the dictator had thousands of people murdered and tens of thousands tortured. All of this happened with the support of the USA and the UK.

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