Spanish – The scene in Santiago, Chile, is grim. Vandals have burnt railway stations, plundered businesses, and set the streets on fires. Police personnel and firefighters could not adequately quell the fire or contain the riots that broke out following a public transport fare-hike.
Thousands of Chileans took to the streets of Santiago under the slogan #EvasiónMasivaTodoElDía or ‘Mass Evasion All Day’ to protest the 3.75% increase in public transportation fares. This is the most substantial increase since 2010. The fare was 830 pesos (about US$ 1.17) during peak morning and afternoon hours. However, the hike has not affected the cost of tickets for students and the elderly.
#ÚltimaHora | En medio de los violentos disturbios que se registran en Santiago de Chile se incendió el edificio corporativo de la empresa eléctrica ENEL, ubicado en el centro de la capital chilena (Más info en breve en https://t.co/Pf3iLrN9cv) pic.twitter.com/sCmAdGaIfz
— PanAm Post Español (@PanAmPost_es) October 19, 2019
#ÚltimaHora | Grupos de manifestantes saquean una farmacia en Santiago de Chile. A esta hora persisten los disturbios y aumenta la tensión en la capital chilena. (Video vía @latercera) #18Oct pic.twitter.com/0BqWI5EBg5
— PanAm Post Español (@PanAmPost_es) October 19, 2019
As happened in Ecuador recently, President Sebastian Piñera has just signed the state of emergency decree in the provinces of Santiago and Chacabuco, and the communes of Puente Alto and San Bernardo.
The state is going to act in response to a boycott than ended up in an inflammatory campaign.
This is how Chilean Andres Barrientos, co-founder of the renowned liberal study center Ciudadano Austral, Chile, explains the issue to the PanAm Post.
What is the current situation in the streets of Santiago?
The capital of Chile is witnessing scenes of rebellion. The intensity is unmatched, second only to the leftist revolution organized in the country in 2011, which led to an increased number of left-wing members of Congress and the second term of the socialist president, Michelle Bachelet.
Currently, the Santiago Metro, which transports more than 2.6 million passengers daily on average – around 37% of the region – is entirely closed and will probably be closed for three or more days due to the extensive damage perpetrated by groups of extremists and insurgent anarchists who are indiscriminately targeting public and private property and equipment.
Different areas have been barricaded, and there were last-minute demonstrations organized through social media by the Communist Party of Chile.
🔴📢 Convocamos a todo el pueblo de Chile a protestar y expresar su descontento con el cacerolazo nacional a las 20.30 hrs. Contra las alzas y la represión del gobierno ✊‼️ #EvasionMasivaTodoElDia #Cacerolazo @PCdeChile @CamiloSanchez_P @Reynmorales @TiffanyCataldo pic.twitter.com/hadKOvQSCB
— JJCC Chile #YoApruebo #NuevaConstitucion (@jjcc_chile) October 18, 2019
Chilean police helicopters can be spotted, and the scenario is rather complicated for law and order forces since rioters have burnt public transport buses and robbed banks, malls, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Meanwhile, people are living in uncertainty, seeking shelter in homes, and waiting for hours to go back to their families.
What triggered the protest, and what are the demonstrators asking for?
A superficial analysis will suggest that the public transport fare hike of less than 4% has sparked the protests. In my opinion, this has been brewing for years. The cultural, educational, union, and ideological apparatus has moved to the left. By underestimating the power of ideas and the theoretical-practical action behind the constant struggle for what we usually call politics, political elites have ideologically abandoned the ideas of freedom.
The public delegitimization of anarchist insurgent groups in emblematic schools, together with the triumph of the government with the failed constitutional accusation against the Minister of Education, creates the excuse for these groups to act and protest viscerally as soon as any problem arises. Furthermore, the people behind it are always the same groups that have perpetrated rebellion against the system of individualistic capitalism. These include advocates of indigenism, feminism, or environmentalism, the latter promoted by the young Greta Thunberg at the UN.
Los hechos de violencia y vandalismo de hoy o mañana no se deben a hechos puntuales, sino a estrategias de "guerra social" de las izquierdas extremistas y batalla celular. Delincuentes han entendido los puntos frágiles de nuestra convivencia y paz social.
— Andrés Btos. (@andres_btos) October 17, 2019
The insurgent groups are appropriating a specific cause, such as the increase in the price of public transport, although it can be solved through a technical-economic response. This does not stop them from repeating their actions to attack social peace with another name or cause that connects to people’s feelings or problems.
Have the violent incidents been gradual, or was it a swift response?
During the last few years, we have seen a series of acts of vandalism that have an ideological foundation. The citizens can correctly ascertain this when they know the material or the remains after a demonstration or simply understand that today in the capital the walls talk through their graffiti-like “kill the paco (police),” “fire to the capital,” “nationalization now,” “anarcho-vegan,” “A.C.A.B. (All cops are bastards),” “evade (with anarchist signs),” “Fridaysforfuture,” “damage,” “social war,” “from the classroom to the class struggle,” among others.
Let’s emphasize that these groups are not sensitive to what is happening in Santiago, nor to the connectivity that exists with other regions of the country.
The protests in Chile have happened only a few days after those in Ecuador. Is there any political-ideological nexus?
Probably. Complex events have occurred in Ecuador, Mexico, and France. Disconnecting ourselves from the events in the West in the 21st century is laughable. But my fundamental question right now is what to do in the face of more than a decade of systematic functioning of anarcho-insurgent cells in schools, punk rock concerts, counter-cultural demonstrations, academic dissemination, eco-terrorism, among others. In my opinion, the elites are committing the mistake of separating a criminal act from its political and ideological underpinnings.
🔴AHORA | Edificio corporativo de Enel, ubicado en Santiago centro, se encuentra en llamas.
— Tele13 Radio (@Tele13_Radio) October 19, 2019
In short, the acts of violence and vandalism of today, or tomorrow, are not due to specific events, but rather a result of strategies of “social warfare” of the extreme leftists. In this sense, the insurgents have grasped the fragile aspects of our coexistence and social peace.
How has the political class responded, and what is the prospect of an immediate solution?
Part of the culprits in the climate of tension are elites, left-wing activists on television, celebrity shows, morning commentators, humorists, and leftist politicians who systematically and steadily encourage comments that provoke an escalation of violence. It is enough to listen to or read the declarations of the young communists, media personalities, and even opposition members of Congress who fuel the conflict, and some repent their words later when the conflict gets out of hand.
The immediate solution has been the closure of all stations and a reinforcement of the police apparatus in addition to the invocation of the Law of Internal Security of the State to increase penalties against those who are found guilty. However, the solutions to barbarism today seem to be more sophisticated than what we naturally understand as public order, increasingly complex in scenarios of inorganic violence and the rise of urban anarchism.
In the short term, the political leaders, together with the citizens, must be categorical in condemning and stopping this situation. These facts polarize the country, and it is also worrying that important international events such as APEC and COP25 are approaching. It bothers me that here, the people who ultimately suffer most are the middle-class citizens, the workers, and the poorest people, as well as our other regions of our country because an event in the capital diverts all attention.
In the course of this interview, more than eight subway stations have been burned, along with the burning of part of an energy company building.