Photo by Edgard Garrido/Reuters. On front, guitarists lead Jara's anthem. Photo by Pedro Ugarte/AFP via Getty Images
Thousands of Chileans again took to the streets in a "Super Monday" mega-rally to kick off the third week of furious protests against the country's "savage capitalism" and rising wealth disparity under billionaire President Sebastián Piñera. The demonstrations, in a seemingly affluent country that's both the world's largest copper producer and one of Latin America's most unequal economies, began in October after the government announced a hike in subway fares. The move sparked a massive national movement born of long-simmering anger at high costs, low wages and pensions, the almost complete privatization of healthcare and education in a supposed "neoliberal" economic success story that masks a widening gap between rich and poor. Says one teacher, "Growth is a fallacy invented (to) hide the inequality." With the protests, thousands chanted, "Chile woke up." In the country's largest march ever, over a million people assembled in the capital of Santiago summoning "the dream of a new Chile" and demanding Piñera's resignation, along with massive economic and social reforms.
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In response, the embattled Piñera - sinister echoes of Pinochet - declared a curfew and state of emergency, and sicced riot police with tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition onto protesters; to date, the clashes have caused over 20 deaths and 1,000 injuries at the hands of police, with at least 3,500 arrests. When protests persisted, Piñera had to cancel two international summits, complaining he was "at war with evil delinquents." Then he tried to appease protesters by ending the state of emergency, reshuffling his Cabinet and announcing reforms including an increase in pensions and wages. On Monday, protesters returned, demanding the end of Piñera's rule and a Pinochet-era, corporate-military-leaning Constitution. "We are fed up, and we are united," said one; insisted a teacher, "This is not going to stop." There has been much drama - a silent march by 1,000 women for the victims of police violence - but the most searing moment came as a million voices rose to join in the long-ago call by Victor Jara, Chilean hero tortured and murdered by Pinochet thugs in 1971, for "El Derecho de Vivir en Paz." "It is the universal song," sang the multitudes. "A chain that will succeed/ The right to live in peace."
— Érika Ortega Sanoja (@ErikaOSanoja) October 26, 2019