CHILE: Metro Fare Hike Sparks Mass Rebellion

Photo: Chile has seen massive, oftentimes destructive protests over the past week and a half after a metro fare increase of 30 pesos

By Aida Demar and Katia Guamaní

Combative protests spurred by a metro fare increase in Santiago, Chile have spread like wildfire throughout the country over the past week and a half. Over the weekend, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera dismissed his entire cabinet, including  Andres Chadwick, vocal supporter of the fascist Augusto Pinochet. The unrest began after the government increased fares by 30 pesos, and students responded by jumping turnstiles and barriers, occupying metro stations and allowing passengers to travel free. After the stations were shut down protests quickly escalated into full scale riots.

Students take over a metro station in Santiago, destroying barriers and turnstiles

After a state of emergency was declared in Santiago on October 18, the military was deployed in the city to “ensure public order and the safety of public and private property,” in the words of Piñera. Additionally, the reactionary old state has invoked the State Security Law, allowing for harsh penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment for vandalism and causing “risk to the country’s internal security.” Piñera’s administration also imposed 7 consecutive nights of curfew, which the masses have routinely broken, until it was finally lifted this past Sunday.

Protesters have taken to starting large fires in metro stations and on the streets

At this point, more than 2,400 people have been arrested, 535 injured, and at least 19 have been killed. Videos of Chilean military and police shooting civilians, running them over with cars and armored vehicles, lighting fires, and looting have been published across social media, along with allegations of sexual abuse and torture. State repression has become so intense that the imperialist United Nations has been summoned to investigate claims of human rights abuses.

At least 80 metro stations in Santiago have been damaged in some way, with 9 completely burned down and another 13 partially destroyed by fires. Striking truckers and taxi drivers have also taken to blocking major highways. A university student in Santiago commented to Incendiary, “this is the only way they’ll listen to the people. Through violence like the French revolution among many more… he destroyed [democracy] first by sending soldiers to kill.”

Truckers and taxi drivers have joined the national strike by blocking major roadways

In a futile attempt to pacify the protesters, President Sebastian Piñera announced on October 19 that the state would “suspend” the fare hikes, however, the protests have become about more than just public transportation costs. One resident of Antofagasta said to Incendiary, “The situation is very complicated, but the strike is not just for the subway, it is for many situations that have accumulated.” The university student also explained to Incendiary, “they raised [the cost of] the subway, light, water, [and] electricity. For years the town was submissive to the richest people in the country, but the rise in the price of subway tickets was the drop that overflowed the glass. People from all over Chile came out to manifest [their] discontent, including me.”

According to revolutionary Chilean newspaper El Pueblo, Piñera’s government has announced a slew of other reforms in hopes that it will stop the wave of protests, including the reduction of parliamentary allowances and salaries of state ministers, improvements in minimum pensions and minimum wages, health insurance, reduction in the price of medicines, higher taxes on large fortunes, in addition to bills to reverse the rise in electricity and the reduction of the workday to 40 hours. However none of these reforms are capable of addressing the root causes of the protesters righteous anger: the great monopolistic property of the big landlords and bourgeoisie, and the government’s defense of these classes as well as their service to US imperialism.

Chile has long been considered exceptional; imperialists and have held it up as one of Latin America’s most stable countries and an example of the successes of capitalism. However ongoing violent protests reveal the inherent crisis of bureaucratic capitalism in the country and across Latin America.

An estimated 9,000 military personnel have been deployed throughout the country to carry out Piñera’s directives. The deployment is reminiscent of the Military Junta government of Augusto Pinochet, the fascist who led the reactionary old state for 17 years until he stepped down from the presidency in 1990.

Although Pinochet is gone, the big bourgeoisie and landlords whom he represented are still in power. The landlord-bureaucratic state still facilitates imperialist domination of the Chilean people and semi-feudal exploitation of the poor peasantry in the countryside. The people are expressing their indignation with the popular slogan “It’s not for 30 pesos, it’s for 30 years,” a reference to the 30 years since the end of Pinochet’s rule, during which time little to nothing has improved for the masses.

There is no indication of the protests stopping as they enter their second week, in fact they have become more combative as the masses take up revolutionary violence and wield it against the old state. Another student in secondary school told Incendiary, “these protests are the basis for generating change, so that people can be heard, by force, since it is the only form of solution.”

The ongoing rebellion fits into the larger pattern of crisis that bureaucratic capitalism is experiencing throughout Latin America, including Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. The Red Faction of the Communist Party of Chile represent the left line in the country and the proletarian ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism; they have the monumental task of transforming the largely disorganized rebellion into an organized war for New Democratic revolution.

To read more about the ongoing struggle in Chile and stay updated, read El Pueblo.