Contributed by Joe Montero
Chile’s political crisis continues as the massive protests in the capital Santiago, other cities and across the country continue to grow, despite most of the country being put under martial law.
This means an ongoing curfew, where citizens can be arrested for just being out on the street. The day to day dealing with the political situation has been out in the hands of the army.
Rather than put an end to protests, it has made many more Chileans angry. Therefore the numbers are growing.
Today (Friday Chile time), more than one million people took to the streets in Santiago. This was the biggest turnout in the nation’s history.
There have been disturbances before. What makes it different this time is the scale. But it is not only this. The other big difference, is that the thousands putting even their lives on the line, is that they are no longer scared of an army that has a viciously brutal history.
Brutality is being used. More than twenty-two have been killed and the toll is mounting. There have been a lot of serious injuries. Thousands have been arrested, and there are already reports of torture. Women are being forced to strip naked in rooms full of male soldiers, molested, had rifles inserted into their vaginas, and raped. Some of the arrested have disappeared.
All of this comes from testimonies and corroborated by human rights organisations. Some incidents were recorded on mobile phones.
The United Nations confirmed on Friday that it will send in a team of investigators.
Up till now, the so-called champions of democracy and human rights, including the Trump Administration in the United States and Scott Morrison’s in Australia, have turned a blind eye to it.
Public reaction has been so strong in Chile, that President Sebastian Piñera has been forced to backtrack on his comments. On his first public appearance last week, he denounced what he called a plot by enemies and vowed that it would be crushed. The public position was that Venezuela’s Maduro is behind it all.
Then when this proved ineffective, Piñera made some concession. It was too little, too late.
As the situation continued to escalate, a shocked president was forced to make yet another public appearance. This time, to ask the nation to forgive him for not understanding the suffering of the people, and for his failure to listen. He said he wanted to talk and promised to punish soldiers guilty of abuses.
No one trusts him. His contriteness is seen as a clumsy attempt to get people off the streets and seize the initiative, to continue business as usual. That’s why it didn’t work. Given that the brutality is continuing, the cynicism might be well placed.
The outpouring of opposition begun when high school students protested a rail fare hike, by occupying subway stations in Santiago. Many of them were in the 13-14-year olds, and the viciousness of the physical attack on them shocked the country.
Unions began calling their members out on strike and communities everywhere began to join in. The initial protest transformed into a movement against austerity, poverty and state violence.
On the streets of Santiago two days ago
Video from Global News
Shots fired on 22 October at protesters defying the curfew
Video from Guardian News
A young man is dragged out of building and shot in the chest
Video from Podemos
Not all soldiers are guilty and there are signs that some of them are refusing to take orders.
Soldiers refuse to open fire and pull aside
Video from MC SAMO
According to reports coming in, the talk is now about more radical change for Chile. There is a call for a new constitution. People no longer want to go back to what there was. This is just the beginning.