Chile’s trade union center, the United Center of Workers (CUT), on July 28, called for a national protest on July 31 against the right-wing government of president Sebastián Piñera. The CUT called on the citizens and workers to hang black flags outside their homes and bang utensils at 21:00 hours, one and a half hours after the head of state’s annual public address known as the Cuenta Pública. In the Cuenta Pública, announcements regarding the government’s social and legislative agenda for the year are made.
In an official statement, the CUT condemned that the government’s neoliberal policies and mishandling of the health and economic emergencies caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of food and aid to the vulnerable population further deepened the glaring inequalities in the country. The national trade union federation rejected the government’s actions that are making the weight of the current health, economic, and social crisis fall on the shoulders of the workers who make the economy move.
In this regard, the union demanded measures that ensure an increase in taxes on large fortunes to have resources to mitigate the impact suffered by the most vulnerable sectors, and as a first step to overcome the country’s enormous inequalities.
The CUT also demanded more effective measures to control the new outbreaks of COVID-19 as well as to guarantee post-pandemic economic recovery and secure the jobs and income of the workers.
The union also called for greater sanitary measures so that the constitutional plebiscite on October 25 is carried out with guarantees for citizens and that in the future there is no regret over a flare-up of the disease that calls into question the holding of this important convocation.
The traditional annual presidential address is the first after the social outbreak of October 2019 that continued for almost 5 months until the coronavirus outbreak in March, demanding an end to the neoliberal economic model, a new inclusive constitution and president Piñera’s resignation. It is also significant because it is taking place in the time the country is struggling to fight the pandemic. Several national social movements and trade unions have denounced the government for prioritizing the economy over people’s lives as well as for leaving the working class adrift amid widespread unemployment and job insecurity. The president’s discourse should be farmed on addressing the challenges posed by the popular uprising and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chile is the fourth worst-hit Latin American country and the eighth most affected nation worldwide by the COVID-19 pandemic. The healthcare system has collapsed in the country. As of July 29, Chile has registered 351,575 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus with 9,278 deaths.