WRATCH Chileans marched Friday against social inequalities and right-wing President Sebastian Pinera
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera’s government was under more pressure than ever on Friday: more than a million people marched through Chile in a historic mobilization to protest against social inequalities. A week after the outbreak of a wave of protest unprecedented in decades in a country considered one of the most stable in Latin America, the mobilization did not give way.
The Governor of the Santiago region, Karla Rubilar, expressed her “emotion” at the massive participation in this demonstration, which brought together, according to her, “more than a million people in Santiago and different regions of the country”. Previously, Santiago City Hall stated in a tweet that, according to the police, “more than 820,000 people” were gathered in the center of the capital.
“We all heard the message”
“The crowd, joyful and peaceful, are marching today, with Chileans demanding a more just and united Chile, which opens up great opportunities for the future and hope,” the head of state said on Twitter. “We all heard the message,” he added.
The demonstrators, waving Chilean flags and singing popular songs during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), gathered in the Plaza Italia, which became the epicenter of the protest movement, as well as in several adjacent avenues, reported AFP journalists. “It will probably be the largest gathering of all time,” enthused Francisco Angular, 38, a development agent in artificial intelligence, in the procession of Santiago. “We demand justice, honesty, and ethics from the government. We do not want socialism, communism, we want fewer private companies, more state,” he added.
“We will never again have to suffer abuse”
The first effect of this mobilization is that “we will never again have to suffer abuse, never again. People are willing to make the sacrifice, if we have to stop everything for a week, a month, we will do it, no matter what it costs us,” said Carlos Lazo, a 77-year-old retiree. Several tens of thousands of people also demonstrated in several other major cities in Chile. While a large part of the country and the capital remained under a state of emergency, with 20,000 police and military personnel deployed, the demonstration in the capital took place in a generally festive atmosphere.
Sebastian Pinera’s announcement on Tuesday of a series of social measures, including an increase in the minimum old-age pension, an increase in taxes for the richest, and a freeze on the 9.2% increase in electricity, did not have the expected effect. More determined than ever, the protesters did not relent in their pressure on the Chilean government.
The movement, which is heterogeneous and without identifiable leaders, has grown, fuelled by resentment at the socio-economic situation and inequalities in this country of 18 million inhabitants. Friday’s huge mobilization “constitutes a turning point after thirty years of increasing depoliticization since 1989”, when the democratic transition began to end Augusto Pinochet’s regime, Marcelo Mella, a political scientist at the University of Santiago, told AFP. The movement “calls on political leaders to push for profound changes in the capitalist development model. A kind of the second transition,” he added.