By Hector Rios, PhD Student at UCL
On 4 October, President Sebastián Piñera announced a 30 pence increase in the cost of transport tickets in Santiago, the capital of Chile. The rise created a situation of generalised opposition and national revolt.
Days after the announcement, school students coordinated massive fee evasion in central tube stations, encouraging people not to pay for their tickets. The protests spread around the capital, growing in numbers and stations. On 18 October the government deployed anti-riot police to contain evaders with brutal repression, but the protests keep growing. On Friday 19 October protests led to the closure of entire capital’s tube system. The city was paralysed, some stations were burned, and spontaneous peaceful pot-bangings were organised by citizens in every corner of the capital.
During the night of 19 October, the president declared a state of emergency in Santiago, deploying the army in the streets to confront the social uprising. The military has imposed a curfew and brutal repression since Saturday 20th. But thousands of people keep protesting every day, organising pot banging and local assemblies in their neighbourhoods, defending the right to protest and denouncing the undemocratic measures of government. Protests have expanded to other cities, while the government continued responding with repression. After six days of this state of emergency in Chile, 2886 people have been arrested, 584 people have been injured and 20 people have died during clashes with the army.
The most important unions and social movement organisations in the country are coordinating efforts, calling for national strikes and days of protests during the week. On 21, 23 and 24 October, millions of people joined the general strikes, and they keep protesting every day in every corner of the country.
The president tried to confront the protests by revoking the transport rise and offering a package of social reforms, but he also declared that Chile is in a “state of war” and re-establish order is his priority. But those measures are not enough. People are organising and demanding an immediate end to the state of emergency, removing the army from the streets, the resignation of the president and a national compromise for a constitutional assembly to re-establish the economic, social and political rights for the people. People are singing “Chile woke up”, because it is not just a 30 pence increase in transport costs: it is about 30 years of injustice, repression and inequalities!