24 October, 2019IndustriALL Global Union has condemned the violence and repression in Chile that have led to the deaths of at least 18 people, and called on the Chilean government to respect the rights of all people to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration.
According to the National Institute of Human Rights, a further 173 people have suffered firearm injuries, while thousands more have been arrested in the anti-government protests.
The disturbances in Chile began when President Sebastián Piñera announced an increase in the price of a metro ticket by 30 pesos, reaching a maximum 830 pesos (US$ 1.15). Following massive protests initiated by students, the government decreed a state of emergency in 10 of the 16 regions of Chile and established a curfew in Santiago and two provinces.
It is the first time a curfew has been declared in the country since the 1973-1990 right-wing dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet. Furthermore, the Government has deployed the army in the streets of Santiago and other cities. There were disturbing accusations of excessive use of force by some members of the security forces and the army.
The rise in the subway fare generated outrage in Chile due to significant inequality in the country. A 2017 survey by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean revealed that 50 per cent of the poorest households in Chile had only 2.1 per cent of the country's net wealth, while the richest 1 per cent of households held 26.5 per cent.
Half of the country’s workers receive a salary equal to or less than 400,000 pesos (US$ 552) per month. Considering the minimum wage in Chile is 301,000 pesos (US$ 415), a rise in the subway ticket is inconceivable to many Chileans. At the same time, there is general discontent among a large part of society due to inadequate pensions, a poor education system, and the high cost of electricity, gas, petrol and healthcare.
IndustriALL General Secretary, Valter Sanches, said:
“The social and economic situation of Chile's population is down to years of ultra-neoliberal policies that have passed public services to companies and destroyed all social protection. We support the strike by our affiliated unions on October 23 and urge the authorities to respect the right of all people to freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration. In turn, we urge the government to bring all sectors of society to the table for dialogue, and to find solutions that help calm the situation and address the grievances of the population in the interest of the nation.”