Clearly, however, the crisis is less apparent than it was between October 18, 2019, and March 13, 2020, when the Chilean government began implementing the first measures to combat COVID-19.
Yet, despite the self-isolation rule and the ban on gatherings, popular protest continues in a new form. People are now demonstrating by banging pots and pans from their homes throughout the country’s main cities. The atmosphere remains tense after five months of unprecedented protests that have left 31 people dead.
The origin of the crisis
It all started on October 6, 2019, with the announcement of an increase in the price of metro tickets in Santiago. Students refused to pay by collectively jumping over the turnstiles. These actions continued peacefully until October 18, 2019, when they were brutally suppressed by Chile’s military police (Carabineros).
Faced with such police violence, the population’s support for the protest movement grew significantly, resulting in large protests across the country.
By October 23, the situation had spiralled into repression and violence, resulting in 18 deaths, 269 injuries, and the arrest of over 1,900 people. However, that did not prevent 1.2 million people from gathering on October 25, in the Plaza de la Dignidad, in the heart of Santiago, for a demonstration of unprecedented scale in the history of Chile.
Delegation on mission in Chile
In January 2020, a delegation of Québec and Canadian labour organizations (including the CSQ), parliamentarians, and academics observed that protests continued daily in the country’s main cities.
The group produced a report in which it recommends that the Québec and Canadian governments publicly denounce the systematic, widespread, and continuous human rights violations perpetrated in Chile under the government of President Piñera. The delegation also asks our governments to support the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in its dealings with the Chilean government to ensure that the latter respects its international commitments and the provisions of international agreements, particularly against torture.
Even if during this pandemic popular protest has become more restrained, we must continue to expose the sad reality happening in Chile.