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No end to the repression in Chile

Tensions are increasing in Chile. Since October 2019, something that many had been waiting 30 years for became possible thanks to the power of the people: the possibility to change a constitution handed down from Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990).


Pierre Lebret*


Gustavo Gatica, a young student that lost his sight when he was shot at by police at a protest in November 2019 (along with 500 young Chileans), said to the EFE news agency: “I’m disappointed by the lack of international condemnation at the repression that has been intensifying for months now in our country. This is a cry from the heart, a cry of distress, and it should make us react. Let’s not wait for the situation to get even worse before we condemn the unforgivable.” It’s important to remember that the magna carta inherited from Pinochet’s dictatorship defends a neoliberal model that has put Chile among the countries with the highest levels of inequality in the world.

The election of a parity and Constituent Assembly on 15 May is a historical turning point for the country.

Nonetheless, the repression has never stopped. Since the “Chilean spring”, being accused of common crimes became routine for those who protest against the government, a strategy dignified of authoritarian regimes.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and numerous other human rights organisations reported on and documented hundreds of cases of random arrests, and dozens of cases of torture and sexual violence at the hands of police officers.

Amid the worsening health crisis, the Chilean opposition requested direct and urgent government support to help those most vulnerable in the pandemic. The government rejected the request, simultaneously denying the possibility of an anticipated third withdrawal of retirement savings for the impoverished population.

With this refusal, one that forces thousands of people to get by in survival mode, the government even goes against state intervention and subsidies, as has been seen in other countries in the region.

Banning Chileans from using these last resources means serving the interests of the private pension funds that hold onto them, interests to which the president Sebastián Piñera and the government are subservient.

The most vulnerable are thus put at even more of a disadvantage. The lack of help is seen as yet another injustice, which has given rise to the mobilisation of the social movement.

The government’s apathy towards its suffering people and the resurgence of repression do nothing but to exacerbate political polarisation in the period running up to the elections, a crucial time for the future of Chilean society.

Faced with this situation, we actively denounce the repression of the Chilean government against its own people.

Similarly, we reject the confiscation of workers’ money by the leaders of the private pension fund system, which is provoking a mass-scale humanitarian crisis affecting the Chilean people.

We call on France and its Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to condemn the human rights violations committed by Sebastián Piñera’s government and the Chilean police forces.

We will not let down a friendly people who are suffering the brutality of a president that has lost his mind.

We want to express our solidarity with the Chilean people, as was the case during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

The denunciation is signed by Olivier Faure, deputy and primer secretary of the Socialist Party of France; Jean Luc Romero, counsellor and deputy mayor of Paris for human rights, integration and the fight against discrimination, and Ian Brossat, spokesperson for the French Communist Party and deputy mayor of Paris.

In addition, Mathilde Panot, deputy and vice president of the parliamentary group La France Insoumise of the National Assembly; Geneviève Garrigos, counsellor of Paris and Sergio Coronado, deputy.

The denunciation is also initialled by myself, along with Sylvia Pablo Rotelli, academic specialising in political sociology at IEDES Paris 1; Maria Paz Santibañez, concert pianist and ex-cultural attaché for Chile in France (2014-2018); Vincent Ortiz, deputy editor-in-chief of the media outlet Le Vent Se Lève and Thomas Lalire, creator of the documentary La Résidence.

In addition, Olivier Campanon, academic and historian at the New Sorbonne University (IHEAL); Juan Pablo Pallamar, academic and doctor of geopolitics at Paris 13; Erika Campelo, associative and co-president of Autres Brésils; Sebastien Gricourt, expert at the Jean Jaurès Foundation, and Cédric Van Styvendael, mayor of Villeurbanne. (PL)

* Pierre Lebret, Political scientist, Latin-Americanist, expert in international cooperation.

(Translated by Lucy Daghorn)  – Photos: Pixabay

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