Over the past six weeks, Chile has seen widespread strikes from a society that is sinking deeper into poverty while the level of income inequality rises.
Last week, a national, two-day strike by trade unions, which included dock and transportation workers, teachers, miners, and other key sectors brought the nation to a virtual halt.
The strikes took place despite the presence of added police and the threat of a military presence by Chilean leader Sebastián Piñera.
Last week, Piñera announced that over 4,000 additional police would be ordered onto the streets of major cities, which will bring the total to over 50,000.
He also ordered the Chilean Congress to vote on new bills that would sanction the use of armed forces intelligence agencies moving forward.
The former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., Juan Gabriel Valdés, issued a statement voicing his concern that any continuation of vandalism and destruction of public property could bring back the repressive government tactics of former President Augusto Pinochet.
In the statement, Valdés said, “What is required is that those with leading positions act with urgency… Each day that passes, Chile nears a total collapse of the public order that can only end in a military coup or at least in power falling to the military, even if they don’t want it.”
The former general was part of a coup in 1973, backed by the U.S., which overthrew the democratically socialist government of President Salvador Allende.
Pinochet led a repressive military regime for 17 years, which included use of the country’s armed forces and infamous secret police to quell dissent.
Always invading, destroying, and overthrowing foreign nations, claiming to bring “freedom and democracy” to repressed nations, Pinochet, the U.S.-supported dictator, killed over 40,000 dissidents.
According to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation, known as the Rettig Commission, the Pinochet government was responsible for some 200,000 dissidents suffering torture and exile.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: Pinochet cancelled all elections and held firm control over all media.
By 1988, however, Pinochet’s repression alienated even top military commanders, who voiced the need for a return to civilian rule. In a national referendum as to whether Pinochet would continue as leader, 56 percent voted “No.”
The country returned to a democracy in 1990, followed by decades of economic growth.
But just as with the familiar story the world witnessed recently in Hong Kong, Iraq, Spain, Lebanon, Peru, Columbia, and Bolivia, the vast majority of the growth went to a small percentage of wealthy elite, with most of the people left out.
TREND FORECAST: With the global economy slowing down and with commodity prices such as copper sinking, with nothing left to lose, Chileans are losing it. Angry over high prices, low wages, and corruption favoring the wealthy, they will continue to risk their safety and their lives in their fight against the ruling class.
With current President Pinera having just ordered thousands of additional police to the protest scenes and with his threat to call in the military, the fear of “Pinochet 2.0” looms large.