Things That Matter

Two People Die As A Driver Plows His Car Through A Crowd Of Protesters In Chile

From Haiti and Puerto Rico to Ecuador and, now, Chile, communities around the world are standing up against policies that they view as contributing to growing income inequality.

After Chile’s President had announced a planned increase in public transit fares, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to announce their opposition to the plan. Chile has already been combating extreme income inequality and a growing cost of living that has outpaced wage growth, making Chile one of the most expensive Latin American countries to live in.

For many Chileans, news of a planned fare increase was one step too far.

Chile becomes the latest nation to rise up against neo-liberal policies that many feel are causing growing income inequality.

Credit: @BorisVanderSpek / Twitter

The protest by students began on Monday when hundreds of people entered several stations in Santiago, jumping over or dipping under turnstiles to protest a 4% increase in subway fares from about US$1 to US$1.16. Chile doesn’t produce its own oil and must import its fuel, leading to high prices for gasoline, electricity and elevated public transportation costs.

Officials said the hike was necessary due to the rising costs of fuel and maintenance as well as the devaluation of Chile’s peso currency.

By the end of the week the protests had turned violent with students breaking gates, shattering glass and throwing debris onto the electrified rails. The situation further deteriorated when some seven stations were set on fire, bank branches and supermarkets attacked and the country’s main electricity company headquarters building was set on fire.

On Friday, the Santiago Metro said it had stopped operating all six lines due to damage until at least Monday, stranding thousands of commuters.

The massive demonstration and police response has resulted in widespread destruction, arrests, and even death.

In response to the protests, the government deployed more than 10,500 officers to the ground and there are reports of more than 1,400 arrests.

Officials in the Santiago region said three people had died in fires at two looted supermarkets early on Sunday. Sixty Walmart-owned outlets were vandalised, and the company said many stores did not open during the day. Five more people were later found dead in the basement of a burned warehouse and were not employees, authorities said.

At least two airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights into the capital, affecting more than 1,400 passengers Sunday and Monday.

Many people were upset at the language used by the President to describe the massive resistance.

“We are at war with a powerful, relentless enemy that respects nothing or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits,” the president, Sebastián Piñera, said on Sunday in an unscheduled speech from the military headquarters.

To many, the language he used just deepened the divide between normal, every day Chileans and those with money and power. The President called protesters criminals and blamed them for clashes with military forces. His choice of words seemed to fan the flames of resistance and empowered those already on the streets.

Meanwhile, the President himself is a billionaire conservative who served as president between 2010 and 2014 before taking office again in March 2018, is facing the worst crisis of his second term.

On Saturday night, he announced he was cancelling a subway fare rise imposed two weeks ago. 

After meeting the heads of the legislature and judicial system earlier on Sunday, Piñera said they discussed solutions to the crisis and that he aimed “to reduce excessive inequalities, inequities abuses, that persist in our society”.

Jaime Quintana, the president of the senate, said “the political world must take responsibility for how we have come to this situation”.

However, the protests don’t seem to be slowing down.

Monday is likely to see a resumption of the protests seen over the weekend, with many banks, schools, and shops expected to remain closed.

Authorities said just one line of the city’s metro was expected to reopen Monday after the entire system was closed Friday because of the damage caused during the protests.

Pinera has appealed for calm. During his televised address on Sunday, he said there were good reasons to take to the streets, but asked for those doing so “to demonstrate peacefully” adding that “nobody has the right to act with brutal criminal violence.”

But Pinera’s appeal may have come too late.

“The protests are more than just about fare increase,” Boris Van Der Spek, founder of the independent news website Chile Today, told Al Jazeera. “It is about the cost of living and the level of inequality in the country. There is so much discontent in Chile. This was always going to happen one way or another.”

Chilean Opera Singer’s Song Touches Hearts Amidst Country State Of Emergency

Things That Matter

Chilean Opera Singer’s Song Touches Hearts Amidst Country State Of Emergency

Frustration over the now-suspended price hike on subway tickets in the Chilean city of Santiago erupted into widespread fury over three weeks ago. Unrest broke out in the country as anger over Chile’s economic inequalities.  Despite its status as one of the most prosperous and stable countries in Latin America, many Chilean citizens have experienced the weight of quickly rising living costs, skyrocketing debt and corruption. Now, violent protests which have resulted in the deaths of over 20 people, have upended Chile putting it in a state of pause as military personal have descended on the streets and the Chilean government has enacted a curfew.  

In a peaceful show of protest, Chilean opera singer Ayleen Jovita Romero, a soprano, performed a heartrending rendition of “El Derecho de Vivir en Paz,” or “The Right to Live in Peace.” In recent decades the song, first released in 1971, has become the country’s national song of protest.

A viral video of Romero has been making the rounds this week after her October 21 performance was shared online.

The video shows Romero putting on a performance of the song on a balcony during the government-imposed curfew which was started after days of clashes amongst protestors and police in Santiago. Since the video’s posting online, it has been viewed over millions of times across the globe and has drawn attention to Chile’s economy-related clashes.

For the past three weeks, Chile has experienced mass protests across the country and specifically in its capital city. 

Spurned by the country’s rising costs of living, the violent protests have resulted in at least 20 deaths and approximately $300 million in damages. On October 18, the government made the decision to declare that it was in a state of emergency and imposed a curfew on Santiago and nearby areas. As of now, the curfew still remains and citizens are required to be inside of their residences from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

Speaking about her now-viral performance, Romero shared with Instagram users her reasons for sharing her son.

“We are demonstrating in a peaceful manner during this curfew, all of the neighbors here are supporting the cause, singing and playing their beautiful instrument,” she wrote in a post to her Instagram page. “I invite other artists to do the same in their homes, the people appreciate it and it does them well ❤️ It’s necessary.”

Romer’s performance received a positive and support reaction from the city and those who were lucky enough to witness her sing the song. 

In a video captured by Ernesto Pinto and shared by the Facebook group El Canto Nuevo de Chile, Romero can be seen singing the song as onlookers watch quietly before breaking out into applause. Pinto’s clip was shared to Pinto’s clip was shared to Twitter by a user on Wednesday and has since been viewed over 4 million times.

“El Derecho de Vivir en Paz” has a significant history for the Chilean people. 

The song, which was first recorded and released by beloved folk singer and political activist Víctor Jara was released in 1971. It was originally written in protest of the Vietnam War and was dedicated to the Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi Minh. The song took on a new and significant meaning in 1973 when the Pinochet regiment took power of Chile and Victor Jara was publicly tortured in front of prisoners for his support of President Salvador Allende. 

Speaking to CNN about her performance, Romero said that she felt that “It was very sad to see how the streets were getting empty. It made me feel helpless, and the first thing I did was to put on the song, ‘El derecho de vivir en paz,’ of Victor Jara. She went onto say that she” came out on the balcony to sing for the people. Never thinking this would go viral. It was beautiful, as people were silent during the song.”

When she was done and listeners broke out into cheers, the song began again with more musicians and singers joining in. “More musician neighbors joined, each one with his part — a violinist, an accordionist, and another singer made all the neighbors sing,” the opera singer told CNN. “It was beautiful and emotional.”

Speaking to CNN about her performance, Romero said that she felt that “It was very sad to see how the streets were getting empty. It made me feel helpless, and the first thing I did was to put on the song, ‘El derecho de vivir en paz,’ of Victor Jara. She went onto say that she” came out on the balcony to sing for the people. Never thinking this would go viral. It was beautiful, as people were silent during the song.”

When she was done and listeners broke out into cheers, the song began again with more musicians and singers joining in. “More musician neighbors joined, each one with his part — a violinist, an accordionist and another singer made all the neighbors sing,” the opera singer told CNN. “It was beautiful and emotional.”

In Mexico, Feminist Activists Honored Victims of Femicide by Marching During What they Called “Día de Muertas”

Culture

In Mexico, Feminist Activists Honored Victims of Femicide by Marching During What they Called “Día de Muertas”

@France24_es / Instagram

On November 3rd, while many Mexicans were winding down from their Dia de Muertos celebrations, a group of activists in the city center were just getting started. Faces painted up as Calavera Catrinas, donning purple crosses and hand-painted signs, this group of people took to the Mexico City streets with one goal in mind: to raise awareness about the scourge of femicide that is sweeping their country, and Latin America in general.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, femicide is defined as “the killing of a woman or girl, in particular by a man and on account of her gender”. In 58% of cases, women are murdered by a romantic partner or a family member. Most of the time, the relationship has been a physically abusive one. In Mexico, gender-based murders have become so common and so consistently under-prosecuted that the families and friends of murdered women no longer feel that they can stand by in silence.

Credit: @PublimetroMX/Twitter

The Dia de Muertas march was coordinated by the organization Voices of Absence, which was founded in order to bring awareness to the plague of femicide in Latin America, and especially Mexico. 

During the march, people gathered holding signs of their murdered daughters, friends, sisters, and loved ones. They chanted the phrase “not one more”, referring to the hope that they would prevent more deaths caused by gender-based violence. According to the office of Mexico’s Attorney General, 2019 is on track to become the second-most lethal year for women in Mexico since 1990, with 2,735 women being killed via homicide. This statistic is more than double the number of deaths recorded a decade ago.

Although Mexico has visibly taken steps to fixing the epidemic of gender-based murders that has taken over the nation ( like by signing the Spotlight Initiative, an EU- and U.N.-sponsored mission to eliminate gender-based violence on women and girls), the protesters also believe that more action needs to be taken. “[These women] did not die of old age or from illness,” said activist and journalist Frida Guerrera, a self-described “chronicler of femicide” throughout Mexico. “They were snatched away, they were ripped from their families, and we want them to be seen”.

Credit: @Lubruixa/Twitter

The protesters were hoping that the demonstration might spur the government into ending impunity for this pervasive crime in Mexico.

Unfortunately, in Latin America, most men don’t face punishment for the murder of women, with a shocking 98% of these gender-based killings reportedly going unprosecuted. According to the United Nations Office of Human Rights, the failure to investigate these murders is due to “underlying societal beliefs about the inferiority of women” in Latin America, which have “created a culture of discrimination within law enforcement and judicial institutions” that result in “negligent investigations”. 

In other words, the structural culture of machismo in Latin America is causing authorities to be apathetic towards the epidemic that is femicide. In order to reduce the rates of femicidie in Mexico, activists are calling for a complete overhaul of Mexico’s legal system, which protects men who kill women. 

Credit: @Lubruixa/Twitter

“The authorities don’t do anything to find these killers and the killers realize that they are taking so long that they have a chance to get away,” said Claudia Correa to Reuters, whose 21-year-old daughter was stabbed to death by her boyfriend in October. “And they are going to continue doing so if we allow them to”.

As for social media users, they are just as fed up with the machismo culture that allows so many murderers to go free without facing justice.

It is a culture of misogyny fueled by machsimo that makes the authorities and the government so apathetic to the murder of thousands of women.

This Latina knows that the fight for equality is futile if justice is not served for these women.

Because of the government’s inaction, women in Mexico are constantly living in fear for their lives. 

As this Twitter user points out, it isn’t just Mexico that’s the problem, but Latin America in general:

This statistic simply proves that the problem isn’t just a Mexican one–but one that is plaguing all of Latin America.

This Latina paid tribute to the women that have fallen to the plague of gender-based murder:

Statistics like this make it hard to ignore the public health crisis on Latin America’s hands. 

This Latina has a theory as to how the problem of femicide has risen to such shocking proportions in Latin America:

Whatever the cause of the crisis is, there’s no time to waste in addressing it. The deaths of thousands of women should be incentive enough to stop these tragedies from happening with such frequency.