Neither the curfew that prohibits free movement in all of Chile nor the total lockdown in force in Santiago since 15 May due to the pandemic were sufficient to prevent the protests that erupted last week following calls on social networks demanding the approval of a pension reform law which is supported by eight out of 10 citizens.
According to the police, 28 street barricades and 13 mass lootings followed – at supermarkets, gas stations or other types of businesses – and attacks were recorded against police stations in six municipalities of the capital. A bus was burned in Recoleta, in the northern area of Santiago de Chile, while unknown individuals started a fire in the Central Station area, in the city centre, which destroyed 16 vehicles. Of the 61 detainees, 54 were arrested in the capital and the rest in other regions. It was one of the most violent nights since March, when social protests stopped abruptly due to the covid-19 health crisis.
The debate around the reform project (to the pension system, which among other things would permit the use of up to 10% of pension funds by individuals to withstand the economic crisis) became a decisive political event because it has also provoked, or at least made more visible, an internal crisis within the ruling coalition, with several factions strongly critical of the Piñera administration’s performance. Last Wednesday, when the Chamber of Deputies ruled on the legislative initiative, 13 right-wing parliamentarians voted in favour of the measure in direct contravention of the Executive’s directives.
But there is a second element that made the reform proposal so cotroversial: for part of the opposition, it is a crucial step to start burying the current pension model. The problem of retirement – one of the flags of the revolts that started in October 2019 – is one of the main concerns of Chileans, because they are extremely low regarding the standard of living that citizens have in their active stage, in a country with a poor income distribution. LINK
Meanwhile, a report posted at Infobae notes that, when the pandemic broke, Chileans were just becoming accustomed to the reality that their country, one of the most stable in Latin America for many years, was on the brink of the precipice of social breakdown. From one day to the next, the massive protests, looting and police violence gave way to a torrent of people infected and killed by COVID-19, with more than 330,000 infections and nearly 9,000 deaths to date.
Experts warn that these two developments form a “very dangerous” tandem event, which could provoke a mental health crisis of still incalculable dimensions. LINK
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Growing crescent of political and economic instability in South America
- Social protest returns to the streets in Argentina