Chile

Indigenous Mapuche political prisoners in Chile continue to stand firm, more than two months into a hunger strike against the repression against their people and the militarisation of their lands.

The hunger strike, which began on July 12 and has been joined by four opposition parliamentary deputies and a dozen activists from student and social organisations, is the latest step in the campaign by the Mapuche people to demand the repeal of anti-terrorism laws.

Thirty-three miners trapped 700 metres underground in northern Chile have been told they will not be paid in coming months, despite the fact it is expected to take close to two-and-a-half months to pull them out.

Representatives of the San Esteban mining company told the workers’ union that no guarantees can be given that the wages of those miners stuck underground since August 5 will be paid. The company insists it is bankrupt.

More than 20,000 people marched on April 22 through the streets of Santiago to demonstrate their rejection of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, which last week banned the distribution of the morning-after pill through the public health care system.

Violent police repression mixed with President Michelle Bachelet’s bizarre assertion that the right to protest still exists in Chile has been the government’s response to the national Unitary Worker’s Council (CUT) day of protest against neoliberalism, held on August 29. Claims by the governing Socialist-Christian Democrat alliance to be politically “centre-left” now look weaker than at any point in its 16-year reign, given its incapacity to address the underlying political and economic causes that lead to the CUT protest.

Protests involving more than a million students shook the streets and classrooms of Chile in mid-2006. This movement, also known as the “penguins’ revolution” (after high school students’ black jacket and white shirt uniform), arose in response to the continued neoliberal approach to education in the country.

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