The Chilean Protests Explained

Chile is currently facing the country’s worst violence in almost thirty years, with protests in major cities against the high cost of living and inequality. The Chilean President, Sebastian Piñera, has declared a state of emergency in the country and some parts have been issued with curfews.

Throughout the week the protests have turned violent between police and the public, with police using tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets against protesters. Reports say 18 people have died since the start of the protesting last week.

Looting of supermarkets and burning of petrol stations have been frequent throughout the protests. The majority of protests have been calling for the resignation of Piñera

What started the protests?

The protest started as a student-led demonstration against the rising public transport fares.

The Chilean government announced earlier this month that metro fares would rise by 3.5% during rush hour.  This provoked high school students to jump the barriers at the metro stations promoting it on social media using “#EvasionMasiva”, which led to viral videos on Twitter showing the students jumping the barrier.

As fare-dodging increased, metro stations closed and police tried to stop students by force.

 

Are metro prices the only reason they’re protesting?

 

No. The inequality felt between lower and middle-class Chilean’s are the main reason for the unrest.  Growing frustration with increased living costs, low wages and pensions, lack of educational rights and a poor public health system. The increased metro prices were merely the tipping point.

 

What has been the government’s response?

 

  1. The government has since reversed its plans to increase the metro fares.
  2. President Piñera has met opposition leaders and called to raise the minimum wage from $413 to $482 per month.
  3. The President has also called for a slight tax raise for low-income families and an increased tax rate on anyone earning over  $11,000
  4. The Chilean government responded to the protests by deploying armed soldiers and police into the streets- the first time it has been done since the end of the Chilean dictatorship in 1990

Video courtesy of Harrison Brown’s Instagram Story Highlights from hblifelens

 

 

EN4 News spoke to Harrison Brown from Glasgow who is currently travelling in South America and witnessed the protests in Chile:

 

Harrison: We are travelling for 2 months around South America!  We were staying at my friends, he lives on the main street where it was all happening so we saw everything from there and when we were walking around. We got tear gassed about 5 times, we saw the riot police guarding metro stations etc and they chased us down some streets at some points. I think the protesting has gone too far, there are ways of getting your points across without violence, the police are just following orders. I think that the riots will have to cause change, if they don’t, unfortunately, it’ll just get worse rather than better!

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