SANTIAGO – After another extremely violent night in Chile, President Piñera has pressured Congress to vote in favor of a new bill that seeks the return of soldiers to maintain order. Opposition sectors emphasize the need for a political solution and fear the army will only worsen the situation. Although social movements call for peaceful strikes, arson attacks and lootings continue.
The office of a local newspaper in San Antonio and a hotel in La Serena, both set on fire. Lootings in Quilpué, Concepción, and Valparaíso. Dozens of wounded police officers and protesters. The general strike on Tuesday ended with pure violence. To reach the light at the end of the tunnel that is the crisis in Chile, the country must overcome endless burning barricades.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, presented on the day of the strike, gave fuel to the protests. Just like the recent Amnesty International report, the HRW report strongly condemned violations of human rights by police. The news that Gustavo Gatica, the student who was shot in the face during a protest, is now totally blind, triggered even more violence.
On Wednesday, the protests continued. In 23 ports across Chile, dock workers went on strike, while traffic around Santiago came to a standstill in some places after the No+TAG movement, an organization against highway tolls, blocked the roads. Metro stations in the capital closed early after evasions were announced on social media, and in the upscale mall Parque Arauco, clouds of teargas filled the premises after groups of protesters stormed the complex.
— Javi valenzuela (@Javival14847147) November 27, 2019
Although social movements continue to march peacefully, the widespread violence in Chile is turning into anarchy as authorities show they have no idea how to handle the crisis. Police use excessive force on peaceful protests, while lootings continue to occur.
Opposition Against Return of the Army
President Piñera drafted a bill that is up for discussion in the opposition-dominated Congress. The bill would allow soldiers to return to the streets to safeguard infrastructure, without declaring a State of Emergency.
Opposition sectors, however, point out that the presence of the army in the streets of Chile during the first weeks of the crisis only resulted in escalation and that the crisis should now be solved in a political manner.
The opposition also rejects certain details in the bill, among them a provision that would exempt the army from criminal responsibility in cases of “illegitimate aggression,” or when there are “no other rational means.” They fear this could mean impunity in case of human rights violations, since “rational means” or “illegitimate aggression” are not clear.
The same argument goes for the role of the army. Soldiers are deployed to safeguard “important infrastructure,” but the bill does not define important infrastructures or explain when they might be in serious danger. With an impasse in Congress, human rights reports on his desk and violence on the streets, President Piñera and his administration are facing difficult days.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.