This has been a terrible week. Chile is going through social disruption, and it's been a long time in the making. The government has been piling on unforced errors that have riled up people until a small bit made the protests start.
The final drop was a price hike for subway tickets, already some of the most expensive relative to the median income. Here there are no monthly passes for workers, but only fare reductions for students and the elderly. When this hike was announced, the govt. had no better idea than to joke "people could wake up earlier to save money". We already have a 45 hours work week. Another minister, talking about the inflation report, joked that romantics could rejoice, because flowers are cheaper.
The government is also trying to push through a tax reform that would let the rich pay less taxes, and also a pensions reform that does not work. Pensions in Chile are profoundly insufficient to live with. With the protests already sparking, the president and his government added fuel to the fire, first by criminalizing the protests focusing on the -by then, few- violent looters, then deploying more and more police and finally the military.
The local IRS pardoned U$S 774 million in debts and fines to large enterprises. Then they hiked up the subway fare, and the gas prices go up with the dollar.
People get angry about all this, and the government is all surprised Pikachu.
We are now under Estado de Emergencia (possible restrictions of civil rights of movement and assembly) and toque de queda (curfew, total restriction of movement and assembly from sundown to sunrise).
President Piñera talked the other night. He dedicated about two words to the reasons for the revolt. He ranted about how we're at war against a powerful, intelligent enemy. His designated military chief for this emergency later said "I'm not at war with anyone." The government and its allies have been and are still, by their own words, unable to see or fathom how this could happen. All the incidents I mentioned above, they ignored. These violent looters the president's allies and voters decry as "lumpenproletariat" have existed since at least the first student protests in 2006. The successive governments, including Piñera's first full term, did nothing about them. Now they're apparently a powerful, omniscient enemy.
The protests sparked around the subway hike, with massive fare evasion by students. It's baffling, really, that after the police and military were deployed, people still managed to burn a subway station to the ground. I'm not suggesting conspiracy theories: I'm just saying that, seeing how this has unfolded, this government's intelligence services, police and military are good only to beat up innocent people.
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash