Peaceful Demonstration in Chile’s Capital Draws over 1 Million Citizens

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Chilean President Sebastian Pineda’s apology, backpedaling on the subway fare hike, and introduction of socio-economic reforms apparently has not satisfied the majority of citizens. On Friday afternoon more than 1 million Chileans took to the streets of Santiago in a massive demonstration calling for major social and political change in the South American country. Many of the protesters were also calling for Pineda’s resignation. His crackdown on the protests last weekend and earlier this week appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in many citizens eyes. 19 people were killed, and over 3,000 arrested and detained. Friday’s demonstration was the largest Chile has seen since 1988 and brought Santiago to a complete standstill.

On Friday evening Pineda assured the people he’s heard their message. He tweeted: “The massive, joyful and peaceful march today, where Chileans ask for a more just and supportive Chile, opens great paths for the future and hope. We have all heard the message. We have all changed. With unity and help from God, we will walk the path to a Chile that’s better for everyone.”

What happens from here is anybody’s guess. The mood of the Chilean people right now is overwhelmingly hopeful, and positive after Friday’s demonstration. That may turn out to be short-lived though if the promised reforms do not come about, or if Pineda refuses to submit his resignation.

Chile is hardly the only country contending with a wave of protests demanding social, economic, and political change. What began in Hong Kong this summer is inspiring millions around the world to take to the streets in protest of real or perceived oppressive government policies, and actions.

I had wanted to discuss Canada a little more this weekend, but I think what’s happening in Chile, Iraq, Lebanon, Catalonia, and other places is worth a longer post on Sunday. I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.

Chilean Government Hopes Reform Efforts Will Bring an End to Unrest

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The dissatisfaction of citizens coming to a boil has been a recurrent theme around the world in 2019. Violent protests over soaring costs of living, official corruption, and unemployment have gripped Hong Kong, Iraq, Ecuador, and Lebanon in recent months. Now Chile has joined the list.

Five days of violence, and unrest in the capital city of Santiago, and around the nation have evoked a government response. Chile’s president, and legislators are preparing a series of social equality reforms today in hopes it will stabilize the situation and bring peace to the streets. President Sebastian Pinera is sending a bill to the National Congress today that will overturn high electricity rates. A second bill will be dispatched tomorrow calling for minimum pension payouts to be raised by 20%.  Over the weekend, protests touched off by a subway fare increase escalated to looting, arson, and riots. Pinera declared a state of emergency and brought in the military to restore order.

The violence came as a shock for Chileans as their country has long been a bastion of political, and economic stability in South America. Rising subway fare proved to be the tipping point for Chile’s poor and middle class, though it is clear the unrest has been about far more. Rising utility costs, sluggish wages, and meager pensions. The nation’s economy has also suffered from global trade tensions, rising oil prices, and sliding copper prices. Copper is Chile’s main export. Despite this, Chile’s economic gains in recent years have been impressive. The problem is that many Chileans feel left out by the gains.

The government is hoping for the reforms to bring peace and stability back to the streets. Riots had continued yesterday following Pinera’s apology and announcement of coming reforms. Today, action being taken in the congress, the number of rioters in Santiago has been considerably smaller. As the week comes to an end it will become clear if Chile is in for another weekend of unrest, or if the government reforms have quelled the angry mood of the people.