First State of Emergency Since Military Rule
The plan to increase transport prices by between $0.04 and $0.10 announced on 6 October sparked protests in Chile. The government reasoned that higher energy costs and a weaker currency led to the hike in bus and metro fares. Protesters said that it was just the latest measure to squeeze the poor.
A state of emergency was announced the following week by President Sebastián Piñera. It was subsequently lifted on 27 October 2019, after more than a week, in a bid to “restore institutional normality”. This curiously comes a day before the arrival of a United Nation’s human rights commission team that is set to investigate human rights abuses during the unrest.
The suspension of the hike on 19 October 2019 did not put an end to the protests.
Fight for Democracy
The metro fare rise has proved to be the spark that awoke Chile’s formidable student body, in which the push for reform is not an unfamiliar movement.
“This is not a simple protest over the rise of metro fares, this is an outpouring for years of oppression that have hit mainly the poorest,” an anthropology student told Reuters during a protest.
Disconnect Between Government and Citizens
The hard-handed approach of the government denies people of social, cultural, economic and political justice and their demands for rights.
“It also sends a message to Chileans that the parties of the right still see the military, and not democratic process, debate, and dialogue, as the ultimate solution to social conflict,” said one analyst.
Hosting of APEC Summit and COP25
Less than a few months from hosting the APEC summit and COP 25 climate meeting, the political and social situation in Chile is anything but calm. Regrettably, it has announced its withdrawal as a host nation for the two major international summits on 30 October 2019. The APEC summit would have seen a trade deal signed by the United States and China. The COP 25, central pillar of the Paris Climate Agreement, would have seen global leaders stepping up on their commitments to combating climate change.