SANTIAGO – The president of the Workers United Center of Chile (CUT), Barbara Figueroa, said on Monday that the “real threat” exists that the right will return to govern the nation and called for the unity of workers, who celebrated the international workers holiday with two marches in Santiago.
“The road we must travel is clear to us. Today, hanging over our heads is the real threat that the right will return to government,” said Figueroa during her speech to thousands of workers who gathered near downtown Santiago on Workers Day.
In the run-up to next November’s presidential vote, currently leading the voter surveys is former conservative President Sebastian Piñera, who governed from 2010-2014, while the coalition supporting President Michelle Bachelet is fragmented and still has not settled on a common candidate.
Figueroa, who in her speech made special mention of the thousands of immigrant workers and people who work independently, said that there is a difference in who governs the nation.
“The worst scenario for workers is for the right to return to government,” she emphasized, referring to the situation of workers in countries such as Argentina and Brazil after the political changes that have occurred there.
She called for the constitution of a tripartite set of talks on productivity and employment.
Within that context, Figueroa said that “the increase in the number of people working for themselves is a reflection of the ... bad job situation ... in this country.”
Some 12 blocks from the site, a second group of marchers called out by the Municipal Health Confederation (Confusam) and the Professors College tried to gather near the University of Santiago, but dozens of masked men clashed with police, causing significant injuries to some, although there were no reports of any arrests.
What started out as a peaceful march with music ended abruptly due to the incidents, which the police countered with water cannons and tear gas.
Both unions have been key players within CUT, but after the latest discussions with the union conglomerate they broke with the organization’s overall line.
“We have differences with those sectors, but it’s not that we’re really against each other. Rather, it’s of concern that for some sectors the relevant thing is to question CUT when in Chile there are more complex problems like corruption,” said Figueroa.
“Saying right now that we’re in a critical situation seems to me to be an extreme judgment,” she added.
Demonstrations were also held in other cities around the country, including Concepcion, Talcahuano and Valparaiso.