So… what’s really happening in Chile? Why is the 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) not being held there anymore? Why has the country suddenly been plunged into turmoil and unrest?
Mayhem, riots and soldiers have taken hold of a country usually envied by its South American neighbours for its economic prosperity. The protests started after a seemingly minor event, a meagre fare hike for public transit by the central-right winged president Sebastián Piñera. Young protesters came out to the street on the 18th of October as ticket prices rose by about 30 pesos, equivalent to 0.04$. The public demonstrations where students swarmed metro stations quickly escalated as millions of residents spilled out onto the streets and the central plaza of Santiago, the capital; protestors lost control and started setting fire to buses, metro stations and ATMs. Piñera’s government imposed a national curfew and police have been liberal with tear gas, batons and metal pellet-loaded guns in an attempt to control and the pandemonium, during which 7000 citizens have already been arrested and 18 others found dead.
The horrifying and unceasing events in Chile may have been triggered by the 4 cent increase in ticket prices; however, the bullets loaded into the gun weren’t those of the price rise. The events had been foreseen as social and wealth inequality seems to be inextricably tied to the country’s current trajectory. Whilst the wealthiest citizens spend 2% of their salaries on transport, the poorest classes are more likely to spend around a 30% of already painfully low incomes; lots of these earn near to the national minimum wage of 382.20 € per month. What is more, of 56 of the wealthiest countries in the world, Chile has the 9th most expensive public transport in relation to average salaries of its population.
On the other hand, we cannot deny the overall progress of the country as poverty in Chile has declined over the last 19 years; 30% of the population used to live with salaries of under 6$ a day compared to a 2% nowadays. This economic prosperity was to be shown in the international Climate Change Conference, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Meeting, both which were going to be held in Santiago later on this year, but have been cancelled due to the civil unrest.
The OAS (Organisation of American States), an organisation committed to strengthening the peace and security of the Western Hemisphere by promoting democratic governments and preventing and resolving conflict between member states, warned on the 16th of October that the Cuban and Venezuelan dictatorships following Bolivian movements, were scheming and promoting the destabilisation of Democratic regions by promoting polarising social and political conflict, Chile is most likely being one of the countries influenced by this manipulation.
Federica D, Year 12