More killed as poll shows half of Chile has joined protests
7 February 2019
Three demonstrators have died so far this year in Chile as four months of mass protests against social inequality and the entire capitalist establishment continue.
The killing of a 37-year-old soccer fan run over at high speed by an armored police vehicle led to major new demonstrations over the past week, particularly among the most impoverished and oppressed areas of the country’s capital, Santiago.
After a first division game on January 28, fans remained in the vicinity of the Colo-Colo stadium in Santiago peacefully chanting protest slogans when “the Carabineros [militarized police] of Chile deployed a completely disproportionate operation… provoking incidents that have ended the life of a fan of our Club,” as described in a complaint letter by the Colo-Colo board of directors. The driver has been arrested.
The nights since have been marked by barricades, demonstrations, the burning of buses, police stations and stores across Santiago. The police responded with brutal repression, including random beatings of bystanders, inundating neighborhoods with tear gas for three or four continuous hours and police charges with vehicles.
On Wednesday, a 22-year-old manning a barricade in the San Ramón neighborhood was killed when a hooded driver ran him over with a bus. In the same suburb of southern Santiago, a man was found dead in a looted and burned supermarket at a location where police attacked a demonstration. At least 124 demonstrators were arrested last week.
In December, the National Human Rights Institute (INDH) reported that the repression by the police and military had resulted in 29 dead, 8,812 arrests, 3,449 injuries, 544 lawsuits over torture and four alleged rapes by state officials.
In the face of such state violence, the protests and strikes only radicalized and grew, slowing the Chilean economy to 1.2 percent growth for 2019, the lowest since the Great Recession. The demonstrations last week, as well as the widespread and ongoing walkouts at high schools during the university placement exams to protest inequality in the educational system, signal a still potent social explosion.
… The ruling class in Chile and internationally has responded with a shift toward dictatorship, offering workers nothing but further cuts and greater exploitation.
The January 2020 Barómetro del Trabajo poll provides valuable data on the definitive question of leadership. Fully half of the Chileans polled (adults) have participated in the protests since October, while another 19 percent said they haven’t but would like to participate. The privatized pension system, “abuses and inequalities,” public education, wage increases and health care were the top issues raised by protesters, in that order.
The poll exposes the absurdity of the claims made by the Trump administration and the Chilean right that “Russian trolls” on the internet provoked the upheaval, which included concentrations of over 1 million people and plunged the approval rating of president Sebastián Piñera to an unprecedented 6 percent.
More essentially, however, the demands of protesters in Chile are the same ones being raised by strikers and protesters across the world, proving that the discontent is the result of social conditions rooted in the global capitalist system and cannot be resolved under a nationalist program. Despite its natural wealth and significant industries, Chile’s economy is entirely dependent on global production chains and markets and remains under the yoke of US and European imperialism.
Class tensions are truly on a hair trigger. Only 2 percent of demonstrators polled raised the issue of public transportation fares, even though the incident that unleashed the recent wave of protests was a relatively minor fare hike in the Santiago Metro last October.
According to the Barómetro del Trabajo poll, 83 percent are “dissatisfied with the functioning of democracy in Chile,” and the same percentage indicate the country is “ruled by self-interested, powerful groups.” …
The bulk of the working class sees the establishment for what it is: an instrument of the 20 economic groups that control more than half of the country’s production and their patrons on Wall Street and in Europe.
SHOCKING figures revealed today the scale of the repression in Chile with almost 10,000 people arrested since anti-government protests began last October. Around 1,100 of those held were children and adolescents, Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI) said, warning that the number of people being detained was rising: here.