SANTIAGO – President Piñera addressed the nation last night after a massive national strike was accompanied by violence in numerous cities. Many expected the president would declare another state of emergency. Although he did condemn the violence as “destroying democracy,” he stopped short of any formal declaration in this regard; instead he announced three new accords as further solutions to the ongoing crisis.
Yesterday’s national strike, although largely peaceful, turned violent in many cities throughout the country. Significant incidents were reported in Santiago, Concepción, Valparaíso, and Antofagasta.
Videos of the riots and destruction flooded social media, among them those that captured large crowds attacking police vehicles, the “guanacos” and “zorrillos,” setting fire to government buildings and destroying infrastructure.
Then, yesterday evening, President Sebastián Piñera had a private meeting with Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel, Interior Sub-secretary Rodrigo Ubilla, Government Spokeswoman Karla Rubilar,and the Defense Minister Alberto Espina. They reportedly discussed ways to respond to the massive unrest.
#ChileDesperto : After violence erupted in Santiago and other cities in the aftermath of the national strike, the president of Chile is currently meeting in La Moneda with ministers and expected to speak on short notice.
Posted by Chile Today on Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Piñera’s New Measures
At approximately 10 p.m., Piñera stepped before the cameras, flanked by Blumel and Rubilar. He began by discussing the serious damage the country had suffered in recent days and emphasized that, despite the efforts of the Carabineros [police] and Investigations Police [PDI], “public order has been violated and civic security has not been respected.”
To strengthen their efforts to restore peace, the president then announced that recently-retired police and PDI officers would be called back into service to help.
He also called on the country to work on three accords—accords for peace, justice, and a new Constitution.
As to the latter, he said such would be possible through “a ratifying plebiscite, so that the citizens can participate in its construction, and can have the last word on this new social pact that Chile needs.”
He also said that he had given instructions to the Interior Ministry to file complaints on Nov. 13 against those who have promoted or participated in violent acts and crimes during the recent protests.
The General Strike
Yesterday’s General Strike was called by unions and workers in various sectors, including commerce, construction, and education. Although it was primarily a peaceful affair throughout the morning and early afternoon, things turned ugly later in the day as marches and protests were replaced by riots, looting, arson, and other violence.
Thus, the destruction that seemed to subside in most areas after the first week of protests in mid-October is now back and, in some places, worse than ever.
Over the past few weeks, President Piñera has announced several measures to address the crisis, among them a cabinet shuffle and minimum wage and pension increases. In addition, the focus of the protests has shifted to broader social reforms, with Chileans gathering in so-called “cabildos” to discuss a new future for the country. Many see this as their chance to effect real change through the political process.
Others, however, continue to feel alienated and ignored, and it’s this latter group, together with violent opportunists, that are re-escalating and attacking those they hold responsible for intractable inequality: multinational stores, government offices, universities, churches, the police, and even the media.
As reported by La Tercera, yesterday’s events ultimately devolved into numerous incidents across the country, leaving one dead, hundreds injured (many of them police), hundreds more arrested, and numerous structures burned or otherwise damaged, including 19 police stations.
Camila Huecho is a journalism student at Universidad de La Frontera in Temuco, currently interning at Chile Today. As a freelance illustrator and Fellow at the Melton Foundation, she works to bring information and cultures together through communications and art.