Once again, as with the nature of all these protests, “It’s the economy, stupid,” government corruption, and anti-elite anger.
Last weekend, Santiago, the capital city, saw looting and riots by citizens angry over increased subway fares, one of a number of proposed rate hikes in public service operations, including a 10 percent hike in electricity costs.
As of last Sunday, more than 70 subway stations had been damaged and buses had been set on fire, as a state of emergency extended beyond the capital to six other Chilean cities. Nearly 11,000 soldiers have been called out.
President Sebastian Pinera’s attempt to quell the furor after the first day, by announcing he would suspend raising the subway fare, had little effect.
Referring to the growing gap between rich and poor, one senator of the ruling party admitted, “We have two Chiles and this is serious.”
Following his announcement that he was rescinding the proposed subway rate hike, President Pinera stated, “I have heard with humility the voice of my compatriots.”
By Sunday, however, he changed his tune saying, “We are at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without limits.”
This was the first time soldiers had been called out into the streets of Chile in 19 years, since the end of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
The street violence in Santiago mirrored the recent protests in Quito, Ecuador, reported in last week’s Trends Journal, where a proposed hike in fuel prices ignited huge demonstrations leading to capitulation by the government.