SANTIAGO – Thousands of people returned to the streets on Monday to mark the first month of the most serious civil unrest of Chilean democracy and show their distrust of both the social agenda announced by the government and the parliamentary agreement on a new constitution.
The Plaza Italia, the ground zero of the protests and renamed by the protesters as “Plaza Dignidad” (Square of Dignity), once again became the epicenter of a large gathering that generally took place in a peaceful manner, although there were some isolated incidents between young people and security forces.
“We continue demonstrating because they laughed at us again,” Clara Sanchez, 50, told EFE while people in the square chanted the slogan that has become the motto of the revolution: “Chile woke up.”
“The solutions that are being given are not real. They are not long-term solutions. I think that they are all just a quick fix,” added Carolina del Rio, a university student.
FROM STUDENT REVOLUTION TO SOCIAL UNREST
What began as a call by Chilean university students to sneak into the Santiago subway to protest against the increase in the ticket prices became protests unparalleled in the last three decades, with no identified leaders and a cry for a fairer economic model.
“In the last four weeks, Chile changed; the Chileans changed, the government changed; we all have changed. The social pact under which we had lived broke down,” said President Sebastian Piñera, who at the beginning of the crisis announced a series of social measures in parliament.
The president also praised the agreement reached by parliamentary forces on Friday to convene a plebiscite in April 2020 so that citizens can decide if they want a new constitution and which body should write it. He also acknowledged for the first time that there have been abuses and excessive use of force by security forces, which he promised to sanction.
The unrest has left at least 23 dead – five of them allegedly at the hands of state agents – and 2,381 injured, of which 222 have serious eye injuries, according to the latest report by Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights.
Chilean Police (known as Carabineros) said on Monday that there have been more than 15,000 arrests since Oct. 18, of which 4,000 were linked to looting.
For University of Chile sociologist Octavio Avendaño, “the persistence of people in continuing to express their discontent reflects that each of the attempts to calm or ease the conflict have not been effective.”
“There are two things that are pending: the social agenda and human rights. As long as they are not resolved, the conflict will continue,” the expert told EFE.
THE IACHR ARRIVES IN CHILE
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, began a multi-day visit to the country on Monday to investigate hundreds of complaints of abuse, torture, sexual violence and homicides by the security forces.
The IACHR joins other organizations on the ground, such as Human Right Watch and the United Nations.
IACHR executive secretary Paulo Abrao met separately with justice minister Hernan Larrain, and with the president of the Supreme Court Haroldo Brito, as well as with representatives of 50 civil organizations.
“The commission focuses mainly on the future conditions of affirmation of the right to justice and reparation of the victims in a way that the operation of the justice system in this context is crucial,” Abrao said.