Protests in Chile
A number of large protests erupted across the world last year. Whether they were in response to human rights issues, violence, contentious legislation, or state repression, protests made peoples’ voices heard. An array of protesters in places such as the U.S., France, Colombia, Hong Kong and Chile took their voices to the streets to demand change. In the case of Chile, protesters were responding to human rights issues and the country’s deep economic and social inequality. The protests themselves were met with brutal force, giving rise to further violations of human and civic rights.
The most recent Chilean protests began on October 18, 2019. Over the short period October 18, 2019 –November 15, 2019, Chile’s Office of the Ombudsperson for Children received 327 claims of children whose rights were violated by military and police personnel. Of these: 118 had been physically assaulted by security forces by punching, kicking or baton blows; 48 were hit by pellets and 11 by bullets. Through November 21, the National Human Rights Institute filed 442 criminal complaintson behalf of victims, alleging injuries, cruel treatment, torture, rape, killings and attempted killings, by the security forces.
Protesters in Chile believe that the roots of inequality, meager pensions and poor public services are embedded in the country’s 1980 Constitution, crafted during the Pinochet dictatorship.
One protester who spoke to our team at Raise the Voices, explained that people are mainly protesting because of meager pensions, and poor social services, especially education, health and the social security system. The Government responded violently to the protests including attacks on journalists (which we are further investigating). Journalists who do not work for major media outlets are not allowed to cover the protests. There has been little or no response from the government to hold the security forces accountable or to assist protesters whose rights have been violated. He shares this because he wants us to let the people of Chile know that they are not alone and that their voices are being heard all over the U.S.
United Nations Human Rights
The United Nations released a 30-page Human Rightsreport that details violations of the human rights of protesters committed by security forces. The report is based on research done the first three weeks of November. It details, “extensive allegations – including specific examples – of torture, ill-treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence by the police against people held in detention, many of whom appear to have been detained arbitrarily. In all, according to official figures, more than 28,000 people were detained between 18 October and 6 December, although the great majority have been released.” Journalists in the report explain how they were beaten, shot with anti-riot guns, or threatened for doing their journalism work such as taking pictures and reporting on the protests. The report was released on December 13, 2019. Since then there has been no mention of the crisis in Chile in theWebsiteorTwitter of the UN Human Rights.
Protesters in Chile believe that the roots of inequality, meager pensions and poor public services are embedded in the country’s 1980 Constitution, crafted during the Pinochet dictatorship. As a result, their demands have focused on the need to reform the Constitution. Responding to persistent and surging protests, the Government acceded to a referendum to decide whether to reform the constitution and if so, how. The Government set April 26, 2020 as the referendum date, but due to the Coronavirus outbreak it has been postponed to October 25, 2020. The COVID-19 outbreak, which put a stop to the protests, has been very severe in Chile, with devastating impact on low-income communities. At this moment it is uncertain when a semblance of normality will return to the country and how the peoples’ voices will be heard again, especially in the run-up to the critical referendum. We at Raise the Voices will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to support the people of Chile.
Chile Government Response
The Government of Chile responded to the UN human Rights report on December 13, 2019, stating “We are taking note and welcome the recommendations and will study with particular attention. However, it is necessary to specify and clarify a series of statements and conclusions which, in the Government’s opinion, are not adequately represented or contain wrong information.” According to sources in Chile there has been no action from the government to help or assist in any way the protesters who were victims of human rights violations.
The people of Chile need help and we intend to continue to highlight and expand their voices through our platform. If you have any information regarding the crisis in Chile, please feel free to reach out to our team@RaisetheVoices.
- Emily Werner and Ian Bannon also contributed to this piece.