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.”

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Mexican Filmmaker Has Won Leoncino d’Oro Award At Venice Film Festival For This Must See Movie

Entertainment

Mexican Filmmaker Has Won Leoncino d’Oro Award At Venice Film Festival For This Must See Movie

Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Even though most of us are still under some sort of quarantine or at least practicing social distancing, much of the world (outside of the U.S. at least) has started to return to some sort of ‘new normal.’

Perhaps one of the best signs of this new normal is that Hollywood and much of the film industry has largely started back up and they’re hosting major film festivals all across the world – albeit with fewer people and a much more laid back atmosphere. We’re not seeing the red carpet events we typically used to see.

However, that hasn’t damped the overall spirit of the events – particularly at this week’s Venice Film Festival where a Mexican filmmaker took home a coveted award and is in the running for the festival’s top honor.

Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco has taken home one of the Venice Film Festival’s top awards.

Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco has won the Leoncino d’Oro Award at the Venice Film Festival for Nuevo Orden, a film depicting a dystopian version of Mexico in the not-so-distant future. 

The honor is one of several collateral awards at the festival and was presented by the Youth Jury, composed of 28 film-lovers between 18 and 25 from each of the countries in the European Union. The film was also in contention for the prestigious Golden Lion grand prize, but lost to Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland.

Since it’s debut last week, Nuevo Orden has received universally positive reviews from critics.

“Audiences might conceivably be divided on the vicious gut-punch of Franco’s approach, but as a call for more equitable distribution of wealth and power, it’s terrifyingly riveting,” the Hollywood Reporter writes. 

“At its heart, it argues that social inequality is presently so great that violence is inevitable. It’s set in Mexico, but it could be anywhere,” says Cineuropa. 

The film was screened Thursday night and drew a standing ovation from the audience and critics And has many fans around the world eagerly awaiting the chance to watch the film.

His film, Nuevo Orden, is a dystopian look at Mexico’s inequalities and paints a very stark picture of the country’s future.

Nuevo Orden, which stars Diego Boneta (of Netflix’s Luis Miguel fame), Naian González Norvind, Mónica del Carmen and Dario Yazbek Bernal, tells a tale of inequalities and political and social conflicts as the upper class in Mexico is replaced by a militaristic regime. It delves into racism, classism, poverty and wealth in ways that are uncomfortably reflective of the current unrest in several parts of the world, critics say.

To be frank, the film is extremely graphic and at times sounds difficult to watch. Unflinching cinematography depicts shocking and brutal scenes of assaults, rapes, executions, torture, blackmail and corruption.

The film opens with an opulent party for the wedding of an upper-class couple from Mexico City, which is interrupted when a legion of desperate people massacre the guests, marking the beginning of an insurrection in the streets that ends in a violent military coup that plunges the country into fascism.

“It’s a dystopian movie to say, ‘Let’s not get there,’” Franco, 41, explained.

Franco is no stranger to the awards circuit and has several award-winning films under his belt.

Credit: Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Michel Franco is no stranger to the awards stage. New Order, as the film is called in English, is his sixth feature film as director. Previous efforts have also won him prizes on the international film festival circuit, including a best screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival for the 2015 film Chronic starring Tim Roth, and a Cannes Jury Prize for April’s Daughter in 2017

Meanwhile, Cholé Zhao’s Nomadland took home the festival’s top prize over the weekend.

It seems oddly fitting in a year of social distancing and remote working that a drama about a lone woman wandering the American West has won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and that the director appeared only by video link-up to receive it. Chloé Zhao’s superbly nuanced Nomadland was picked by a Cate Blanchett-led jury from an 18-strong competition at a slimmed-down edition of the event, which has widely been regarded a success (Covid-19 test results pending). 

It is the fourth year in a row that a US-made film has taken the top prize, following Joker last year, Roma (a US-Mexico production) in 2018 and The Shape of Water in 2017. Zhao, who was born in China but works in the US, is the first female director of a Golden Lion-winning film since Sofia Coppola took the prize in 2010 with Somewhere.

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Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

Things That Matter

Cuba Locks Down Havana To Stop Covid-19 As Cubans Struggle To Afford Everyday Items

Ivan Bor / Getty Images

Cuba has been one of the hemisphere’s coronavirus success stories — but a sudden outbreak in its capital has brought on a strict, two-week Havana lockdown. Residents of the capital city will be forced to stay-at-home for 15-days, while people from other parts of the island ill be prohibited from visiting – essentially sealing off the city from the outside world.

Meanwhile, the Coronavirus pandemic has pummeled the island’s economy and has left many everyday items out of reach for many Cubans. Some are being forced to turn to ‘dollar stores,’ where the U.S. dollar is once again accepted as hard currency – something now allowed since 1993.

Officials have ordered a strict 15-day lockdown of Havana in an effort to stamp out the spread of Coronavirus in the capital.

Aggressive anti-virus measures, including closing down air travel, have virtually eliminated COVID-19 in Cuba with the exception of Havana, where cases have surged from a handful a day to dozens daily over the last month. 

A daily curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. was instituted Tuesday. Most stores are barred from selling to shoppers from outside the immediate neighborhood in order to discourage people from moving around the city. 

Some Havana residents complained that the measures were complicating the already difficult task of buying food in a city hit by constant shortages and endless lines for a limited supply of basic goods. Some provinces that saw no new cases for weeks have begun detecting them in recent days, often linked to travelers from Havana.

The start of in-person classes for students was also indefinitely delayed in Havana, while schools opened normally in the rest of Cuba.

To enforce the lockdown, police stationed on every road leaving Havana are supposed to stop anyone who doesn’t have a special travel permit, which is meant to be issued only in extraordinary circumstances.

Under the strict new lockdown measures, anyone who is found in violation of the stay-at-home orders face fines of up to $125 per violation, more than triple the average monthly wage.

The island nation had seemed to manage the pandemic well – with fewer cases than many of its Caribbean neighbors.

Credit: Ivan Bor / Getty Images

The island of 11 million people has reported slightly more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with fewer than 100 deaths, one of the lowest rates in the region.

The government made face masks obligatory in the early stages of its pandemic response, and in the first months of the crisis police aggressively fined and even jailed people for violations. 

That vigilance slackened somewhat as Havana moved out of the first, strictest phase of lockdown in July, when public transportation restarted and people returned to work. The number of coronavirus cases then began to climb again.

Meanwhile, the Cuban economy has tanked and residents are struggling to make ends meet now more than ever before.

Credit: Yamil Lage / Getty Images

The pandemic has hit the island’s economy particularly hard. Much of the island relies on agricultural and tourism – two sectors that have been decimated by Coronavirus.

As a result, many Cubans are struggling to afford everyday items. Rice – which used to sell for about $13 Cuban pesos per kilo is now going for triple that.

In an effort to allow Cubans better access to goods, the government has began recognizing the U.S. dollar as official currency. This is extraordinary as mere possession of U.S. dollars was long considered a criminal offense. However, the measure draws a line between the haves and have-nots, one that runs even deeper than it did before the pandemic.

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