With voting in Chile underway, people report few public buses available in cities across the country. Some say there are barely any city buses running today. Curiously enough, most complaints come from neighborhoods where left-wing Gabriel Boric was polling well.
Polling stations in Chile opened at 8:00 a.m., and at different points in the country people started queuing early to avoid the scorching heat predicted for central zones later in the afternoon this Sunday. However, many complained they were having problems getting to their polling stations due to a bus shortage. At bus stops in large municipalities in the Metropolitan Region, such as Puente Alto, San Bernardo, and Maipú, people flocked together and waited sometimes hours in the blazing sun to vote.
Soon after these reports came in, local authorities and citizens in these municipalities took to social media to show bus terminals and parking decks full of unused city buses, suggesting the solution for the shortage was at hand. Leading figures from candidate Gabriel Boric’s campaign, such as Izkia Siches and Giorgio Jackson, cried foul and the left-wing candidate himself said “the government has a responsibility” to solve the problem. Electoral services Servel expressed similar concerns.
Así luce a esta hora el terminal El Conquistador de Maipu. Muchos buses estacionados, y muy pocos en la calle.
La flota de buses es considerablemente menor a la de un día laboral. Nos parece muy grave que esta negligencia afecte de esta manera el proceso electoral. pic.twitter.com/3xNuXQfGzh
— Tomás Vodanovic (@TomasVodanovic) December 19, 2021
Raúl Arias, a Transantiago bus driver, talked to Cooperativa and said only 40 percent of the bus drivers available were driving today, despite statements from the government that they were operating buses on a normal workday schedule. “The minister is telling us that the frequency is normal and once again we find that they are lying: there are no people coming to work, the staffing is not complete as on a normal day, and I believe that it is still happening in Quilicura, Maipú, Puente Alto, and, above all, here in La Florida. People were not summoned,” he said.
Transport authorities, such as Fernando Saka from the Metropolitan Public Transports, said in the Metropolitan Region only there are over 3,000 buses operating. “This is 55 percent more than a normal Sunday and between 3 percent or 4 percent more than on Sunday, November 21 (the first round of the elections). I want to be super clear and emphatic: we have been working for three weeks, today’s operations program was delivered on December 10 to the operators and last Thursday it was reinforced again,” he said.
Jaime Bellolio, spokesman for the Chilean government, called accusations of election interference “false.” He pointed out that there are between 5,000 and 6,000 buses running in the Metropolitan Region today, a number that starkly differs from the one published by transport authorities. In the meantime, Chileans seeking to vote are organizing carpools through social media, while private services like Uber and Cabify offer discounts.
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.