Violent police repression during national protest in Chile

Protesters demonstrated demanding fundamental rights such as education, health, housing, employment and decent pensions.

September 06, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
More than 90 people were arrested during the National Protest held in Santiago, Chile on September 5. (Photo: CUT/Facebook)

On September 5, hundreds of citizens, workers and members of various social organizations, trade unions as well as left-wing political parties, joined the National Protest and demonstrated across Chile to reject the regressive social policies promoted by the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera. The slogan of the mobilization was “We are tired, we are united”.

In the capital, Santiago, the protesters gathered at four different points across the city, with the aim of marching towards the La Moneda Palace, the seat of the President. However, on their way, they were brutally repressed by officials of the national police force, the Carabineros. The police officials used tear gas, water cannons and force to disperse the crowd. A number of people were injured during the repression. Marcos Canales, a national councilor of the Workers United Center (CUT), suffered a knee fracture.

In addition, more than 90 people were arrested in different parts of the capital. Several trade union and social leaders were also detained, among them were, Nolberto Díaz, the general secretary of CUT; Tamara Muñoz, the head of the International Vice-Presidency of CUT; Manuel Valenzuela, the national councilor of CUT; Manuel Ahumada, the president of the Confederation of Copper Workers (CTC); and others.

The Carabineros also tried to enter the CUT’s headquarters and attacked those who were blocking the entrance with pepper spray. The CUT is the national trade union federation and was one of the organizers of the National Protest.

Representatives such as Bárbara Figueroa, the president of the CUT; Luis Messina, the spokesperson of “No + AFP”; José Pérez, from the National Association of Fiscal Employees (ANEF) and Mario Aguilar, the president of the Colegio de Profesores de Chile, who were present at the protest, condemned the police violence and the state’s response to the social protest.

One of the central motivations behind the national mobilization was to demand the fundamental rights such as education, health, housing, employment and decent pensions. Protesters also mobilized to express their discontent with the three anti-workers and anti-union bills pushed by Piñera’s administration, concerning the flexibility of work-days, the modernization of the Labor Directorate (DT), and the electronic payment of severance packages.

The mobilization was also carried out in support of a bill introduced by Camila Vallejo of the Communist Party of Chile (PCCh) and Karol Cariola of the Communist Youth of Chile (JJ.CC.), which seeks to reduce the working hours from 45 to 40 hours per week. On September 3, the initiative was approved by the Labor Commission of the lower house of the parliament.

The call for the National Protest was given by the Social Unity platform, which brings together more than 60 social, human rights, doctors, environmental, Indigenous, women and students’ organizations and trade unions.

The hashtags #NosCansamosNosUnimos (#WeAreTiredWeAreUnited), #ProtestaNacional (#NationalProtest), #UnidadSocial (SocialUnity), #40Horas (#40Hours) and #Cacerolazos, trended on Facebook and Twitter, calling on people to join the protest.

At night, several cacerolazos were held in different regions of the country to denounce the arrests and the anti-people policies of Piñera’s administration. Cacerolazo is a kind of protest in which people make noise by banging pots, pans, and other utensils in order to call the attention of the general population.

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