From the November-December 2019 issue of News & Letters
In response to an increase in subway fares—symbolic of the growing inequality in Chilean society, with continuing increases in the costs of health care, electricity, and education—students in Santiago initiated a protest, storming the Metro stations and organizing mass evasion by refusing to pay. They were quickly joined by thousands of protesters throughout the country.
President Sebastián Piñera responded by decreeing a state of emergency in six main cities, seeking to restrict freedom of assembly and mobilization, and ordering thousands of military forces into the streets for the first time since the infamous Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship in the 1990s.
Despite Piñera agreeing to some “reforms,” protesters called a two-day general strike for Oct. 26-27. Tens of thousands marched in Santiago and other cities. Police responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon.
It’s important to note that these protests are against the neoliberal policies that Pinochet imposed which, despite “socialist” governments post-Pinochet, have continued to wreak havoc for the mass of working people. Students, secondary and university youth, have been the most militant, leading the social protests in education, and questioning the whole direction of society.
Chile, often held up as an oasis of stability in South America, is showing the deep social contradictions that are at its heart.