Violent Protests in Chile


This past weekend, riots and violent protests have erupted in the streets of Chile. The citizens of Chile are up in arms about an increase in subway fares and the cost of living. A minimal increase that started on Oct. 6 prompted a group of high school students to jump turnstiles and boycott the metro stations. This caused many stations to shut down, and police had to get involved. Although Chile’s economy is starting to grow, many Chileans feel outcasted while struggling to pay off debt. Middle-class citizens feel abandoned by President Piñera’s billionaire government. What started out as a minor act of disobedience turned into protests demanding improved education, health care, and wages in what is usually a stable, but unequal country.

Riots broke out, with people in the streets yelling and hitting pots and pans. Despite most protests being peaceful, the mob mentality took over with looting, arson and vandalism; people were starting fires in stores and trains. Almost 20,000 soldiers were in the streets to contain the outbursts with tear gas and water cannons, and nearly 5,000 have been arrested. Chile’s president has placed a state of emergency on ten cities and declared an overnight curfew for the third night in a row. This was the first curfew for reasons other than for natural disasters since Chile returned to democracy after a brutal 17 year dictatorship. This excess force used by government officials startled human rights activists.

After the outcry by Chileans, the government lowered the subway fare and is willing to discuss different policies to combat the civil unrest over the inequality in Chile. This includes (but is not limited to) increasing the lowest state pension and minimum wage. As volunteers are helping clean up the disaster, there are still schools closed and the streets reek of tear gas. The aftermath of these riots resulted in the deaths of 18 and the injury of 200 Chileans. The government is still working to stabilize the country, but it is still a work in progress.