National strike attracts diverse crowd in Santiago

SANTIAGO – Thousands followed a call from Chile’s biggest union (CUT) and marched along the Alameda, Santiago’s main artery, during a national strike on Thursday. Participants protested the conservative government of Sebastián Piñera and comprised groups fighting for women’s rights, universal health care, a centralized pension system, and others. The crowd advanced peacefully, and only minor incidents occurred on the sidelines of the rally.

Under the banner “Unite all the struggles, for a fair Chile!,” Chile’s main union, Workers Unitarian Central (CUT), public employees, students, and social movements, among others,  marched along the Alameda in downtown Santiago. They protested “a lack of dialogue” on part of the Piñera administration on issues relevant to social movements.

El Mostrador newspaper reported that the march drew a peaceful crowd of 10,000 according to estimates by the Carabineros police force. CUT, however, claimed that around 30,000 citizens participated. The march, authorized by the Metropolitan Intendancy, started at the city’s rich/poor dividing line Baquedano Plaza and advanced to Los Heroes Plaza, where a final act was held. Similar demonstrations took place in 26 cities across the country.

Piñera announces reform of “8th best pension system in the world”

Against Piñera’s labor and social agenda

The public display of workers and social movements from the left of the political spectrum has been fueled by recent government announcements concerning a pension reform proposal, the Youth Labor Statute approved last July by the lower chamber, and the release of the “100 proposals for the integral development of Chile.” Critics charge these measures would restrict the framework for trade union action.

If the proposals turned into policies, workers could lose the advances achieved in recent years and the country’s influential economic groups would gain even more power, according to the organizers of the rally.

During the final act, CUT president Barbara Figueroa said this was not going to be the only national strike. She called for unity between unions, social movements, and political parties in congress against the “neoliberal agenda” of the Piñera administration.

Earlier this week, representatives from opposition parties, including the Socialist Party, the Christian Democrats, the Party For Democracy, the Communist Party, Progressive Party, and the Autonomist Movement met with CUT representatives and joined the call for the national strike.

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