A rally held by Wellington-based Chileans on Tuesday drew up to a hundred people, following widespread repression and brutality against protesters by President Sebastián Piñera’s armed forces.
People gathered at Frank Kitts Park opposite the Chilean Embassy, chanting, dancing, holding signs, and waving Chilean, indigenous Aymaran and Mapuche flags in solidarity with protesters in Chile. This is just one of four actions that have been held in Auckland and Wellington since Sunday.
Government announcements of public transport fare hikes in Chile sparked a week of mass fare evasions on October 14 prompted by the collective actions of high school students. This was followed by confrontation between police and security against protesters from October 18.
Inspired by the indigenous-led uprisings in Ecuador against Lenín Moreno’s structural adjustment programmes and other working-class uprisings around the world, Chileans who’ve felt the crushing weight of neoliberalism have stood up as well. Port workers and copper miners are promoting a general strike in solidarity with protesters around the country, stoking the fears of the global capitalist class. “If it can happen in Santiago, it could happen anywhere,” Bloomberg writes.
A state of emergency and military curfew was first declared in Santiago in the early hours of October 19, and then rapidly extended to other cities and regions as mass demonstrations spread across Chile. The Chilean military has been deployed onto the streets for the first time since Augusto Pinochet’s fascist military dictatorship, which lasted between 1973 and 1990.
Pinochet came to power in a US-backed coup against the elected democratic socialist President Salvador Allende. Allende attempted a transition from capitalism to socialism through agrarian reform. He nationalised banks and copper mines, empowered trade unions, reduced rents, raised wages, doubled the length of maternity leave, and improved the state of housing, healthcare, and education.
After Pinochet seized power and put Chile under a military dictatorship, thousands of communists, communist sympathisers, trade unionists, and associated people were forcibly disappeared, brutally tortured, raped, killed, and had their children uplifted. 120 bodies were dropped from helicopters into the ocean, rivers, and lakes.
Pinochet undid many of Allende’s progressive policies, liberalising the economy. Under Pinochet and the guidance of neoliberal ideologues from the Chicago School in the USA, Chile became one of the world’s cruelest neoliberal experiments, combined with iron-fisted fascist dictatorship. Pinochet privatised hundreds of state-owned enterprises, banned trade unions, and trashed the healthcare and education systems. Many of his neoliberal policies were never overturned by successive governments. Chileans today still suffer from entrenched economic inequality. Rents are high, wages are low, the cost of living is rising.
10,500 soldiers and police have been deployed to suppress protests. Based on footage and reports from people on the ground, thousands have already been detained, soldiers are shooting at unarmed protesters, police and military have been accused of multiple counts of rape, rape threats, and sexual violence, and at least 15 people have been killed, though that number may have risen since.
A petition has been launched on ActionStation by Chilean expatriates calling on the New Zealand government to condemn the brutality of Piñera’s state forces. Follow-up events in Wellington have been called later in the week. On Friday 4pm, another rally will be held at the Chilean Embassy. On Saturday at 12pm, a festival will be held at the Latin community mural in Newtown.
New Zealand continued its relations with Chile during Pinochet’s regime. During the 1970s, over 200 Chileans sought political asylum in New Zealand. For many, seeing the open fire on unarmed civilians, torture, rape, disappearances, and unlawful arrests happening again on such a wide scale is a traumatic reminder of the dictatorship.
Organise Aotearoa supports calls to the New Zealand government to condemn the Chilean government’s actions. Chile’s history shows us that opposition to socialism has been brutal and unforgiving, and Piñera has demonstrated that he is more than happy to continue Pinochet’s legacy, rather than allow working class people to take power again. People from all sectors of society are finding unity with each other in a struggle for justice, democracy, and socialism, after 36 long years of fascism, neoliberalism, and austerity. We wholeheartedly express solidarity with them.
¡El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!
Podcast: Chilean Coup of 1973: Salvador Allende, Augusto Pinochet, & the CIA. Revolutionary Left Radio.
Transcript: Salvador Allende’s Last Speech. Wikisource.
Article: Chile: Resisting under Martial Law. Crimethinc.
Film: ReMastered: Massacre at the Stadium. Netflix