NATIONAL Social Crisis

No Rest for Chile: Violent Protests Continue on a Daily Basis

SANTIAGO – With two dozen arrests at the end of the “Resign Piñera” march on Monday, Nov. 23 in Santiago, another protest ended in violence. Although some expected a period of relative calm after the referendum a month ago, protests flared up in other cities, too. More marches are announced for the coming days.

Nearly a month ago, Chile voted in favor of a new Constitution. Plaza Baquedano, or Plaza de la Dignidad as dubbed by determined protesters, was the center of celebrations. The next day, the square was cleaned up, the statue of general Baquedano was painted black again and the ambiance seemed calm in the days after.

“Seemed calm,” because, despite a large police presence aimed at protecting the statue, protests in the area are ongoing. Protesters feel their presence is needed to keep politicians from taking the constitutional process hostage and using it for their own benefit.

The reasons to take to the streets and engage in protests that often end in violence and destruction are endless, it seems: protests against President Sebastián Piñera, inspired by the recent resignation of Peru’s conservative interim president Manuel Merino after just five days in office; protests against the government’s move to take the second pension withdrawal bill to the Constitutional Court; protests against the health authorities, sparked by striking health workers; street vendors demanding a permit to work during the pandemic; and on and on.

More Protests Announced

On Monday, Nov. 23, protests intensified as the government decided to appeal the second pension withdrawal bill. Many Chileans deem the withdrawal necessary to survive the financial hardship the pandemic has imposed. Protesters marched along Santiago’s central artery, the Alameda, toward the presidential palace, La Moneda. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons, shops and pharmacies were looted, another night of destruction.

The Undersecretary of the Interior, Juan Francisco Galli, was quoted by local media as saying that “some 400 people are not going to threaten our democracy,” referring to protesters’ demand that Piñera resigns. However, the government has said it will also appeal to the Constitutional Court the repeal of the fishing law, or Ley Pesca. The law is seen as benefiting big enterprises over artisanal fishers. Unions are warning of more strikes and marches if the government sticks to this move.

Massive marches are already announced for Wednesday, Nov. 25 – not because of the pandemic, controversial laws, or Piñera, but because that day is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. In a country where violence against women is common and cases like Antonia Barra’s continue to make headlines, feminists have urged all Chilean women to take the streets. Mixed up with the social discontent, the country should brace itself for another 24 hours of large mobilizations and possible violent protests.

The Soundtrack to Chile’s Social Protests

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