Rising Tensions in Chile
Today, Chile is gripped with danger as civilians and the military engage in combat on the streets. Chile’s fight against their government boils down to distrust of the government and a growing resistance to rising costs of living. After the government released their (since repealed) plan to raise subway fares on October 6, protests broke out. The president, Sebastián Piñera, declared a state of emergency, and cities all over the country have been shut down with curfews and military security. Students have mobilized over the fare hike and proceeded to promote civil disobedience, spreading their message on social media with the hashtag #EvasionMasiva (Londoño). Media coverage on the initial protests and rising violence in Chile have largely been portrayed from the perspective of the Chilean government.
In a critical remark against the protest, Chile’s president commented, “We're at war against a powerful and implacable enemy who doesn't respect anything or anyone, and who's willing to use limitless violence and criminal acts.” (Bartlett)
This is a stark contrast from the narrative that young people themselves are releasing, which highlights the limited power civilians have over the insurmountable danger they are facing. Chile’s economic inequality is demonstrated by the fact that Piñera himself is a billionaire, and does not seem to properly represent his constituents due to this detachment.
Over social media, young people have shared information about both about the protests themselves and the reasons behind them. Taking to sites such as Instagram, they have shared their voices on a platform that is both accessible and personal. They have detailed the intense violence in Chile, specifically criticizing the military’s presence and its failure to protect vulnerable citizens. The protests have led to a rising death toll, with civilians announcing online that bodies line the streets. As protests escalated after the fare hike, police have indiscriminately beaten protestors (OneLoveActivism). This contrast in statements highlights the separation of the government and Chilean citizens. Democracy is failing in Chile in the eyes of citizens.
In fact, Chile’s president has tried to communicate with both the media and civilians over social media, writing on Twitter about his position on the protests and issues. He has attempted to maintain the tenets of democracy, encouraging conversation with those that feel unheard. Considering the continuous violence following Piñera’s statements, it is evident that his attempts at peace have failed, leaving citizens unheard. The views of youth are undervalued on a global scale and this has only escalated the grievances of young Chileans in fighting against their government.
Chile’s government has acknowledged this discrepancy in information, with Patricia Muñoz, Chile’s ombudsperson for the rights of minors, stating, “We are incredibly concerned for the safety of those young people involved in violent confrontations with the police, but the information we are getting from the authorities is one-sided.” (Bartlett)
Chile is a country divided at the moment, and without cooperation from both sides, this division will remain. As of October 27 at midnight, Piñera lifted the curfew (Redacción Chile). Whether or not violence will deescalate is a question of the power of his policy and will be a matter of life or death.
Bartlett, John. “Chile Protests: State of Emergency Declared in Santiago as Violence Escalates.”
Londoño, Ernesto. “What You Need to Know About the Unrest in Chile.” The New York Times,
Redacción Chile. “Citizens Mobilisation Puts an End to Chile's Curfew.” Pressenza, 27 Oct.
The Editorial Board. “Opinion: Chile Learns the Price of Economic Inequality.” The New York
Times, 22 Oct. 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/22/opinion/chile-protests.html
OneLoveActivism. “My prayers are with you Chile.” Instagram, Other contributors, 19 Oct.
Protestas en Chile de 2019, Santiago, Chile. 21 October 2019. Carlos Figueroa