Between Repression and Reform

Landau, La Serena 5. November 2019.

RepressionEveryone is surprised: the government, the political parties, the non-parliamentary opposition, and probably even more so the Chlilean citizens. Since the middle of October they have demonstrated in masses, and demanded comprehensive reforms. The grassroots movement has not (until now) been represented by any leader or particular organization. And although many protests have proceeded peacefully, it nevertheless comes again and again to physical disputes between security personnel and those protesters with a high propensity to violence. As previously during earthquakes and tsunamis, criminals have used the protests as an opportunity to plunder.

Actually, Sphensico wanted to report here in detail about the conference ‟Áreas Marinas Costeras Protegidas a dos años del IMPAC IV (the status of the marine protection area two years after the Global Conference on Marine Protection Areas – IMPAC IV). Nancy Duman and her staff (Paola Vargas and Valeria Portus) had prepared for the seminar for months, and conducted it on October 3rd. Philipp Robert (a French specialist from the IUCN on Marine Protection Areas), Chilean scientists and environmental protectionists reported to the 150 participants and discussed with them the further developments relating to the Humboldt Archipelago. In impressive fashion, the meaning of a marine protection area in this valuable coastal and marine region was again identified and perspectives regarding sustainable use were presented. The conference was also live streamed. Simultaneously, there was an exhibition at de Armas Square. Sphenisco had invited local action groups to report on their concerns, and provided them a place to offer their products. After the conference, Nancy Duman´s small team was exhausted, and busy with making sure to politically and publically make use of the positive energy of the event.

At that moment in time, in the middle of October, the nationwide protests in Chile had begun. These had their roots in student protests against the increased public transportation charges in Santiago. That however, was just the last drop that caused the barrel of social dissatisfaction to run over. The Piñera government reacted quickly with massive – one could say excessive repression: a state of emergency, curfews, use of the military, and the arbitrary arrest of many people. The President spoke of “a war and a powerful enemy that uses boundless violence”, and thus further incited the conflict. This lead to young demonstrators being shot to death, even though they themselves had not resorted to violence.

Despite the repressions, the protests continued, and among their primary demands were the creation of a new constitution (instead of the constitution that has been in force since the time of Pinochet), the increase of the minimum wage, the increase of mínimum retirement pay to 500,000 Pesos (about 665 USD), the re-nationalization of natural resources (elimination of private wáter rights, from coastal areas and national parks), as well as general improvement of living standards such as access to decent living space, free education and health coverage. In light of the current unrest, President Piñera has changed out half of his cabinet, and announced a sequence of social measures, such as an increase in the minimum retirement pay and mimimum wage, reduced prices for medicine, higher taxes for those with high earnings, a stop of tax decreases for companies and a decrease in the wages of members of parliament and the ministries.

However, the protestors could not be appeased. They did not trust the promises, and continued to organize strikes and again demand Piñera’s resignation.  A number of parliamentarians have filed complaints of unconstitutionality against the President and his previous Minister of the Interior, Chadwick.

The „Unidad Social“, a collective of over 70 workers associations and many social organizations (115 social initiatives, unions and student associations), has called for democratic workshops (so-called “Cabildos), in order to better organize the protests and to pool their demands together. Nancy was invited to various workshops and organized a Cabildo herself on cultural heritage and the environment (“Cabildo Patrimonio y Medio Ambiente”).
Chile between repression and reform:  it cannot be foreseen, which developments the country will make, and how these developments will affect the protection of nature and the environment.
translated by Erich Greiner
Repression Repression Repression

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