There were amazing scenes in Chile on August 21 when 1 million people marched in Santiago chanting: “The people united will never be defeated!” These were awe-inspiring scenes of mass mobilisation. The acute trigger is the privatisation of the education system. The underlying trigger is relentless and ever widening social and financial inequality. If the people know about neoliberal policies, it is the Chileans.
The ongoing student protests in Chile are an unwavering accomplishment aimed at combating the social injustice infecting the country's education system. What started out as a series of peaceful protests in May has become a movement that unites students, artists and much of the general population. They are defying the government’s stance on social class, cultural difference and political division with regard to education.
Chile is becoming a part of the global movement of youth that is transforming the world bit by bit. Weeks of demonstrations and strikes by Chilean students came to a head on August 9, as an estimated 100,000 people poured into the streets of Santiago. Joined by professors and educators, they demanded a free education for all from primary school to university. Police fired tear gas canisters into the crowds and 273 people were arrested.
As I walked out of the tercera comiseria (police station based in the centre of Santiago) on August 4, it hit me what had transpired on this incredible day. All I could hear were the sounds of the cacerolazo, people beating pots and pans in protest, every street corner occupied by protesters who had erected barricades and lit bonfires. The echo of an updated song from the time of the Pinochet dictatorship sounding through the streets.
Chilean activist Manuel Olate Cespedes was arrested in Santiago on October 29 after the Colombian government alleged he is linked to left-wing guerilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Below is an abridged statement issued by the Latin America Social Forum (LASF) Sydney that calls for Cespedes’ release and opposes plans to extradite him to Colombia. *** The LASF (Sydney) wishes to express its opposition to the arrest and detention of Manuel Olate Cespedes. We also express our grave concern regarding Colombia’s request to extradite Cespedes.
Remembrance Day, on November 11, was celebrated again this year in the Australian media with pictures of red poppies and flag-draped coffins and historic photos of Australian soldiers who gave “the ultimate sacrifice” from the human-made wasteland of Flanders to the stony deserts of Afghanistan. Paying tribute to the ten soldiers killed this year in the long war in Afghanistan, Governor-General Quentin Bryce said that Australians were good at remembering: “We seem to know what we ought to hold onto and what is best let go.”
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile on October 14 is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet.
The rescue of 33 miners in Chile is an extraordinary drama filled with pathos and heroism. It is also a media windfall for the Chilean government, whose every beneficence is recorded by a forest of cameras. One cannot fail to be impressed. However, like all great media events, it is a facade. The accident that trapped the miners is not unusual in Chile and is the inevitable consequence of a ruthless economic system that has barely changed since the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Copper is Chile's gold, and the frequency of mining disasters keeps pace with prices and profits.
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.