SANTIAGO – For the third night in a row, protesters in cities throughout Chile have taken the streets. In five regions in Chile, a State of Emergency is declared with six cities under curfew. Peaceful protests have been met by police oppression, while lootings and riots are continuing to make headlines. President Piñera said on Sunday: “We are at war,” with a rise of the death toll to eight casualties.
After three days of heavy protests, Chile finds itself completely paralyzed. Highways are shut down by police forces; flights are canceled, causing chaotic scenes at the Santiago Airport; and pharmacies, gas stations, and supermarkets have closed because of looting fears. In various neighborhoods, citizens have formed citizen guards to protect their houses and shops.
Looting nevertheless occurred: already on Sunday morning, reports were coming in of people entering malls, taking whatever they could get their hands on. In the Santiago commune of Renca, five people died in a fire in a clothing warehouse. Later today, reports came in of people breaking into houses in the communes of Macul and Maipú in the Chilean capital. Similar events occurred in Coquimbo, Concepción, Coronel, Hualqui, Punta Arenas, and Valparaíso.
The violence dominated headlines in Chile, while all over Chile tens of thousands of people took the streets in peaceful marches, often accompanied by their pots and pans to make the noise that the government doesn’t seem to want to hear. In Santiago at Plaza Italia, protesters doing a sit down were met with tear gas, launched by police.
Whereas on Friday police forces stayed away from the riots in the capital of Santiago, on Sunday various videos have gone viral of police and military forces using excessive force against protesters. One person died in the commune of Lampa after being run over by a police car, while other video’s showed people with gun shots and one in particular of military men dragging an unconscious man through the streets.
Grave. Militares disparando en Colina pic.twitter.com/Umhbo7w1Hp
— Prensa OPAL Chile (@prensaopal) October 20, 2019
From the Piñera government, declarations have been scarce so far. In a television speech on Sunday, Piñera stated that “Chile is at war,” giving his full support to the army and declaring that they will “win this battle.” Piñera went on condemning the violence and affirmed that his government will be working to resolve the crisis.
Earlier on Sunday, the president met with the leaders of Congress, the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the ministers of Defense and Internal Affairs. They called for unity and announced they will open dialogue. Later on Sunday, President Piñera met with the leaders of the biggest supermarkets in Chile.
It is the absence from the president in this profound crisis that triggers anger from protesters. So far, little has been done by the government to stop the violence and to meet the demands of protesters, while measures such as curfews and the deployment of army troops only seem to have worsened the violence. At the moment of this writing, over 10,000 soldiers, complemented with investigative police (PDI), and riot police, are combating the riots.
Strikes on Monday
On Monday, Chile seems to be facing another day of protests. Student organizations, worker unions, and social movements have called for a national strike, despite the call for calm from the government. In the towns of Talcahuano, Tomé, Penco, Lirquen, Dichato and Coliumo, harbor workers have announced they will protest against the loss of jobs in their sector. Metro workers have announced they will strike too, with the public health sector announcing a strike on Tuesday.
Schools and universities have suspended classes too, meaning that the normalization the Chilean government hopes for is still far away.
Read about the night before:
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.