12 November 2019
Summary and videorecording from TUED’s recent Global Forum on the ongoing protests in Chile
On November 7, 2019, TUED convened its latest “Global Forum,” focusing on the recent and ongoing protests in Chile. Roughly 80 people from 25 countries joined the call to hear from CUT-Chile on the ground about the origins, composition, demands and prospects for the uprising. The agenda for the call is here, and the list of participants is here.
As the main presentation for the forum CUT-Chile’s National Councilor Tamara Muñoz reported on the protests.
As many are aware by now, the uprising began with a coordinated student protest against a proposed hike in public transport fares. The Chilean government of President Sebastián Piñera responded aggressively and violently. But this response provoked a widespread public backlash, and protests quickly escalated and spread.
In the weeks since, the mobilizations have continued and spread across the country. According to Muñoz, what began as a protest against a fare hike has evolved into something bigger with other demands — around wages, abusive working conditions, privatization of public services, and more. Workers and students have come together with growing actions in cities beyond Santiago. People on the ground are calling it “the awakening of Chile.”
The regime has responded by calling in the military, imposing curfews, and declaring a state of emergency. This has resulted in more than 20 people killed, more than 5,000 detained, and many injured by tear gas and rubber bullets. Police are reported to have been intentionally shooting people in the face, and roughly 175 people have been blinded. There are also reports of torture, and of the rape of young girls.
CUT-Chile has been coordinating with environmental and rights organizations, and there has been a call for all the protesting groups to come together in broad unity. Within that formation there is a union bloc, in which CUT-Chile is active.
The union bloc has been conducting surveys and polling people in order to identify demands that have wide appeal. Based on the responses received, the bloc has formulated a list of ten demands (pdf, in Spanish; unofficial English translation here). These include core protections and rights around work (improved wages, reductions in the working day, collective bargaining, etc.), bundled public services (water, light, gas, phone, cable, internet), free or cheap public transport, improved pensions, social rights (education, health, etc.) and — perhaps most importantly — reversal of the 1980 constitutional changes made under the Pinochet dictatorship, which are widely seen to have led to the current crisis conditions.
There has been a call for a general strike for November 12 — today.
In summing up her contribution, Muñoz offered a very hopeful perspective:
This moment brings us a lot of hope. We are very hopeful that our demands will be met. This is a transformational moment we’re living in, where all of these groups have come together around social issues, worker issues, environmental issues, understanding very clearly that the people most impacted by environmental issues are workers and communities.
We are hopeful that this people’s revolution can be an example not just for Chile but for Latin America in general. For a long time, Chile was the standard, the example for social and economic prosperity in the region, but that bubble has burst. People have finally come out into the streets to demand their rights, to fight against the repression and these neoliberal practices. So we’re hopeful that this struggle will help us to raise living standards for both communities and workers.
We’re very hopeful. We think this is a very transformational point.
The recording of the meeting is available here. Please note that the contribution from CUT-Chile begins around 40:30.
For the latest news on the ongoing protests, we encourage you to follow CUT-Chile on social media:
The TUED Team