It is interesting to come back to the particular social situation following the events of October 18th, now that I have seen it from the inside and no longer through the European media, which have long represented the situation with a superficial, partial and often partisan presentation.
The official excuse for the start of the October 18 revolt was a € 0.034 increase of the “standard” underground ticket price € 0.89. Which ticket is reduced to € 0.34 for students, and which increase was not applicable to this same category, which was nevertheless in the front line of the violence.
During the first demonstrations, seven metro stations were completely burned, and eighteen partially burned. The timing between these fires had been carefully calculated so that it was not possible to intervene effectively. The firing and tagging products were identical. Launching more than 1,500 Molotov cocktails simultaneously in these metro stations and in certain “targeted multinationals” department stores cannot be improvised; it is the result of a careful preparation. The same is true for group fires and rampage and looting, where the greatest number of bodily accidents occurred, in part due to crowd movements during thefts followed by panic evacuations. The images of vandals running out with a fridge or TV on their back reminded me of those of Argentina from 2013 and previous years.
It was therefore not a spontaneous popular uprising but an action carefully prepared by political organizations whose weight in Parliament (about 5%) and the Senate is not sufficient to influence government decisions, but which have decided to show their strength in the street. Well known music!
Like in France, the agitators, also dressed in black and hooded, came in part from foreign countries, in particular from populist dictatorships of Latin America which I will not name.
Surprisingly, the same types of revolt with the same methods appeared in parallel in other democracies of Latin America, Bolivia (where the president fled to Mexico), Colombia and Ecuador.
There was therefore clearly an external will to destabilize these peaceful democracies.
The police and the army (the Carabineros, a military police) found themselves distraught in front of the extreme violence of the demonstrators, just like in Paris in March 2019 during the first events of the Champs Elysées, and admit having over-reacted. The intelligence services have been particularly ineffective, after having been gradually beheaded by the various governments which followed the military dictatorship, in reaction to a previous excess of power by these same services. On November 25th, the Chilean government signed a cooperation agreement with Great Britain, France and Spain to get assistance in reorganizing the police services and administrations in charge of maintaining the public order.
The metro fires of October 18 and 19, 2019 in Santiago. Actions condemned by the people themselves, who are the ones who need it most to go to work. Photos REUTERS/AFP.
The present Constitution was written in 1980 by the military and largely reformed in 2005. It seems to be the common point of the challenges, in a desire for more rights for the citizens. All the political parties except one having agreed to propose a referendum in April 2020 relating to its rewriting, the situation has gradually calmed but not completely, because the main left party, at the origin of this explosion of violence, has not yet accepted the terms of this ballot. A position difficult to support, the population being tired of these brutalities which do not correspond to the spirit of this country. At only one month from summer holidays and lost wages due to repeated strikes, euphoria confronts reality. Since the beginning of December, there is no longer any block or looting, the universities have closed by creating a form of virtual exams to move on to the next year (all promoted!), the schools organize the rituals of awards in large pump and uniform.
The interview with an “engaged” pop artist, Mon Laferte, on the subject of the police interventions of October 18, is quite significant of the level of provocation and the powerlessness of the government (La Cuarta of 25/11): “Do you believe that putting fire to a supermarket, which is covered by insurance, which is a millionaire multinational company, is more important than people’s lives? That it is worthwhile to call for the army in the street to repress the people for material goods? For something that has been stolen from us for life?” An old centennial Marxist-Leninist rhetoric that is now totally anachronistic. And to conclude her inflammatory intervention, she added “There would be many cases where the same police and the same soldiers were the same ones who set fire“. And did not hesitate to show off her beautiful chest during the Grammy ceremony with the inscription “In Chile, we torture, we rape, we kill“. In our country, such claims would have triggered an immediate arrest, but in this fundamentally peaceful country, the government is simply “studying a possible legal action“.
After receiving her award for the “Best Alternative Music Album” at the Grammy Latino in Las Vegas, the Chilean pop artist Mon Laferte did not miss the opportunity to send a message to his country, “In Chile we torture, we rape and kill”. Photos AFP/Tele13.