Chile Demonstrations Swell as One Million March in Santiago

  • The past week has been marked by fierce protests against Chile's president, Sebastian Piñera.
  • The governor of Santiago, Karla Rubilar, described Friday's demonstrations on Twitter as an "historic day."
  • The protests began in early October when students demonstrated against a fare increase to use the subway during the rush hour in Santiago. 

On Friday, there were close to a million protesters on the streets of Chile’s capital, Santiago. It is one of the largest demonstrations ever in the South American country.

The 2019 Chilean protests are ongoing civil protests throughout Chile in response to a raise in the Metro de Santiago subway’s fare, increased cost of living, and prevalent inequality in the country. As of 26 October, 19 people have died, nearly 2,500 have been injured, and 2,840 have been arrested.

The past week has been marked by fierce protests against Chile’s president, Sebastian Piñera. At least 19 people have so far lost their lives due to the protests.

The governor of Santiago, Karla Rubilar, described Friday’s demonstrations on Twitter as an “historic day.” She praised the peaceful march with nearly a million people representing the dream of a new Chile. “Today is a historic day,” Ms. Rubilar wrote on Twitter. “The Metropolitan Region is host to a peaceful march of almost one million people who represent a dream for a new Chile,” she added.

Many other Twitter users have since been posting photos and videos of Friday’s massive demonstration. The huge crowd of the demonstrators could be seen moving through the capital’s streets while singing resistance songs, mostly sung during the 1973 to 1990 period, when dictator Augusto Pinochet was the president of the nation. Similar demonstrations were equally witnessed in all the major cities in Chile on Friday.

High Ticket Prices

The protests began in early October when students demonstrated against a fare increase to use the subway during the rush hour in Santiago. Chile’s Minister for the Economy, Development, and Reconstruction, Juan Andres Fontaine, angered many and spiced up the demonstrations when he said live on TV that those dissatisfied with the hiked fares should get up earlier to catch public transport when the fare is lower.

On Friday, the protests developed into riots and vandalism on several subway stations. Authorities responded again by imposing a curfew at night and declaring a state of emergency in several regions. This means that ordinary civil rights, such as moving freely or gathering, have been restricted during the curfew period.

Tear Gas and Water Cannons

Sebastián Piñera is a Chilean politician who currently served as the 36th President of Chile, following his election in December 2017. He also served as the 34th President from 2010 to 2014.

About 20,000 police and military people were deployed to the capital, where they used tear gas and sprayed water cannons to disperse the demonstrators. The country’s security team has been accused of having caused at least five deaths. On social media, the police have come under heavy accusations for torturing and assaulting the peaceful demonstrators.

The UN is set to investigate allegations of human rights violations during recent weeks’ demonstrations and unrest in Chile. President Piñera has tried in vain to dampen tensions with promises of social reform. In an apparent move to calm the demonstrators, Pinera earlier this week, promised to boost the minimum wage as well as pensions, stop the fare hikes on public transport and work on the fixation of the nation’s poor healthcare system.

“We’ve all heard the message. We’ve all changed,” Mr. Pinera tweeted in response to the demonstrator’s demands. The demonstrators won’t listen to Pinera’s message. They are still determined to dethrone him, with many vowing to continue with the demonstrations until he leaves office.

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Vincent Ferdinand

News reporting is my thing. My view of what is happening in our world is colored by my love of history and how the past influences events taking place in the present time.  I like reading politics and writing articles. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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