The social protests in Chile against the neoliberal government of President Sebastián Piñera continued with demonstrations at the 61st Viña del Mar International Song Festival on February 23. Despite strong police security, hundreds of protesters mobilized in the city and demonstrated in front of the Quinta Vergara Amphitheater, taking advantage of the lights and cameras to denounce the anti-people, anti-social and anti-democratic regime of Piñera.
In addition, a group of protesters succeeded in entering the festival site and raised slogans against President Piñera comparing him with the last Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, manifesting the discontent of the majority of Chileans for his administration. For many, the protest had symbolic importance as the Festival which costs millions of dollars to put on, is largely for the bourgeoisie, elites and celebrities, while the Government claims that there is no [money for] health, education or housing for citizens. Protesters in Chile continue to demand structural changes in the system in order to guarantee fundamental rights for all in the country.
The officials of the national police force, the Carabineros, brutally repressed the peaceful protest with water cannons spraying toxic water and an excessive amount of tear gas. This led to violent clashes between the protesters and the security forces. Three state vehicles and five private cars and some government buildings were set on fire by protesters. In the aftermath, barricades were erected in different parts of the city and the militarization of the city was intensified.
The streets of Viña del Mar transformed into a battleground by late evening. Incidents of police repression were also registered in the neighboring city of Valparaíso, where the people mobilized against spending millions of dollars on a music festival amidst a serious social crisis.
The protesters even received the support of national and international artists who took part in the event. Chilean singer Mon Laferte and Puerto Rican singer Ricky Martin criticized the militarization of the city and the despotic attitude of the president towards his people.
The popular uprising in Chile against the right-wing government of President Piñera and the neoliberal state model in place since the last military dictatorship of General Pinochet began four months ago on October 18, 2019.
In the last four months of anti-government protests, 31 deaths and thousands of cases of human rights violations have been reported and condemned by national and international organizations.
According to the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) in Chile, between October 17 & February 18, due to heavy police repression, 10,365 people have been arrested, 6,158 have been severely injured, 445 have suffered eye injury and vision loss, 520 have been tortured and threatened, 197 have been sexually harassed and 1,073 have been dealt with excessive force.
The social movement with the demand of a new and inclusive constitution with people’s participation is expected to resume with greater strength in March with a number of demonstrations planned during the month.