Things That Matter

In Chile, Hundreds of People Have Lost Their Eyes After Protesting Against Economic Inequality

On Sunday, crowds formed outside of the Chilean clinic where 21-year-old student Gustavo Gatica was staying. Standing together, the protesters waved Chilean flags and chanted: “El puebla está contigo”. The people are with you. The crowd gathered to support Gatica after he had permanently lost both of his eyes after being shot at close-range by rubber bullets. Unfortunately for Chileans, cases like these have become more and more common in recent weeks. Since mid-October, stories have abounded of Chilean protesters suffering permanent eye-sight loss at the hands of excessive police force.

According to the Chilean Red Cross, more than 2,500 people have been injured since October 18th when the protests started. Of that number, 400 of those injuries were caused by rubber bullets. According to the Salvador Hospital ophthalmology unit in Santiago, more than 140 people have suffered eye injuries since the begin of the protests. Some experts claim that the number is closer to 180 people. Officials say that of these numbers, 60% suffered a severe decrease in vision, while almost 30% were completely blind in one eye. In Chile, both doctors and health officials are calling the wave of injuries an “epidemic.” 

According to officials, the amount of eye-injuries that have been sustained by Chileans during these protests is unprecedented in the entire world.

“If you look at the statistics and compare them with complaints from France, Kashmir, Palestine, for example, they have much lower numbers,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Enrique Morales to The New York Times. “In just eight or nine days, we’ve surpassed numbers from any other medical reports of this kind of eye injury happening as a result of pellet gunshots. It’s a human rights catastrophe”. 

In Chile, the protests began on October 6th when subway fares increased, prompting an influx of turnstile-jumping as a form of protest. As police used force to crack down on the fare-dodgers, the public responded with more protests. From that point forward, everything snowballed. The fare increase became a symbol for everything Chileans were unhappy with, what The New York Times describes as “the rising cost of utilities, stagnant wages and paltry pensions” that made it difficult for lower and middle-class Chileans to flourish. “We don’t have good public health, the salaries are low,” 29-year-old publicist Jacinta Urivi told Al Jazeera. “There are so many things that act against the people, that they (the politicians) fill their pockets with”. 

As the maiming continues, the rest of the world has started to take notice of the government’s violence. 

On social media, people have started bringing attention to what some are calling “mutilations” through explicit pictures and videos. And according to The New York Times, international human rights organizations have begun to investigate the abuse. But the publicity is little solace to the protesters who will have to live the rest of their lives without their eyes. Pablo Verdigo, blinded in his left eye by a rubber bullet, told the New York Times that the loss of his eye “breaks his heart”. “Because you want to protest, for your kids,” he said through tears. “Not for this to happen.”

But Verdigo has no regrets about protesting against the government. Days later, he was back on the streets, marching against economic inequality.  “If we change something, this eye will be a triumph, not a loss.,” Verdigo told The Times. “That’s what I want. That losing my eye will be worth it”.

Throughout Twitter, the violence and mutilations have not gone unnoticed. 

People are using their social media platforms to bring awareness to the unprecedented violent blindings happening in Chile.

People are shocked that the armed forces are targeting such an integral part of the human experience: eyesight.

It seems like a systemic attempt to oppress the people by instilling fear in them.

Some people are bringing to light how the police brutality against Chileans is universal:

It seems that everyone is in danger.

This person believes that the Chilean government’s response to the protesters is undemocratic:

People should not be permanently maimed for exercising their fundamental right to peaceably assemble.

This man is documenting the myriad of injuries that Chilean protesters are sustaining at the hands of the police:

His Twitter feed proves the extent of the unprecedented police brutality. 

On Sunday, President Sebastián Piñera finally reacted to the violence by announcing he supported a new constitution.

While before,  Piñera claimed that Chile was “at war” with the protestors, calling them a “powerful enemy who is willing to use violence without limits”. But now, Piñera has announced that he is willing to draft the new constitution that protesters have been asking for, a response that has been met with almost universal skepticism. “Anyone who thinks that the current Congress can write down a new constitution may be fooling themselves,” says Senator Jose Miguel Insulza of Chile’s Socialist Party. “It may not have enough legitimacy”. 

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Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Entertainment

Exclusive: Luis Fonsi Talks Working with Rauw Alejandro, Christina Aguilera, and Demi Lovato

Luis Fonsi is kicking off 2021 with a new single. The Puerto Rican superstar premiered the music video for “Vacío” on Feb. 18 featuring rising Boricua singer Rauw Alejandro. The guys put a new spin on the classic “A Puro Dolor” by Son By Four.

Luis Fonsi throws it back to his románticas.

“I called Omar Alfanno, the writer of ‘A Puro Dolo,’ who is a dear friend,” Fonsi tells Latido Music. “I told him what my idea was [with ‘Vacío’] and he loved it. He gave me his blessing, so I wrote a new song around a few of those lines from ‘A Puro Dolor’ to bring back that nostalgia of those old romantic tunes that have been a part of my career as well. It’s a fresh production. It sounds like today, but it has that DNA of a true, old-school ballad.”

The world got to know Fonsi through his global smash hit “Despacito” with Daddy Yankee in 2017. The remix with Canadian pop star Justin Bieber took the song to new heights. That was a big moment in Fonsi’s music career that spans over 20 years.

There’s more to Fonsi than “Despacito.”

Fonsi released his first album, the fittingly-titled Comenzaré, in 1998. While he was on the come-up, he got the opportunity of a lifetime to feature on Christina Aguilera’s debut Latin album Mi Reflejo in 2000. The two collaborated on “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” Fonsi scored multiple Billboard Hot Latin Songs No. 1s in the years that followed and one of the biggest hits was “No Me Doy Por Vencido” in 2008. That was his career-defining romantic ballad.

“Despacito” remains the second most-viewed music video on YouTube with over 7.2 billion views. The hits did not stop there. Later in 2017, he teamed up with Demi Lovato for “Échame La Culpa,” which sits impressively with over 2 billion views.

He’s also appearing on The Voice next month.

Not only is Fonsi working on his new album, but also he’s giving advice to music hopefuls for the new season of The Voice that’s premiering on March 1. Kelly Clarkson tapped him as her Battle Advisor. In an exclusive interview, Fonsi talked with us about “Vacío,” The Voice, and a few of his greatest hits.

What was the experience like to work with Rauw Alejandro for “Vacío”?

Rauw is cool. He’s got that fresh sound. Great artist. Very talented. Amazing onstage. He’s got that great tone and delivery. I thought he had the perfect voice to fit with my voice in this song. We had talked about working together for awhile and I thought that this was the perfect song. He really is such a star. What he’s done in the last couple of years has been amazing. I love what he brought to the table on this song.

Now I want to go through some of your greatest hits. Do you remember working with Christina Aguilera for her Spanish album?

How could you not remember working with her? She’s amazing. That was awhile back. That was like 1999 or something like that. We were both starting out and she was putting out her first Spanish album. I got to sing a beautiful ballad called “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido.” I got to work with her in the studio and see her sing in front of the mic, which was awesome. She’s great. One of the best voices out there still to this day.

What’s one of your favorite memories of “No Me Doy Por Vencido”?

“No Me Doy Por Vencido” is one of the biggest songs in my career. I think it’s tough to narrow it down just to one memory. I think in general the message of the song is what sticks with me. The song started out as a love song, but it turned into an anthem of hope. We’ve used the song for different important events and campaigns. To me, that song has such a powerful message. It’s bigger than just a love song. It’s bringing hope to people. It’s about not giving up. To be able to kind of give [people] hope through a song is a lot more powerful than I would’ve ever imagined. It’s a very special song.

I feel the message is very relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic we’re living through.

Oh yeah! I wrote that song a long time ago with Claudia Brant, and during the first or second month of the lockdown when we were all stuck at home, we did a virtual writing session and we rewrote “No Me Doy Por Vencido.” Changing the lyrics, kind of adjusting them to this situation that we’re living now. I haven’t recorded it. I’ll do something with it eventually. It’s really cool. It still talks about love. It talks about reuniting. Like the light at the end of the tunnel. It has the hope and love backbone, but it has to do a lot with what we’re going through now.

What do you think of the impact “Despacito” made on the industry?

It’s a blessing to be a part of something so big. Again, it’s just another song. We write these songs and the moment you write them, you don’t really know what’s going to happen with them. Or sometimes you run into these surprises like “Despacito” where it becomes a global phenomenon. It goes No. 1 in places where Spanish songs had never been played. I’m proud. I’m blessed. I’m grateful to have worked with amazing people like Daddy Yankee. Like Justin Bieber for the remix and everyone else involved in the song. My co-writer Erika Ender. The producers Mauricio Rengifo and Andrés Torres. It was really a team effort and it’s a song that obviously changed my career forever.

What was the experience like to work with Demi Lovato on “Echáme La Culpa”?

She’s awesome! One of the coolest recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. She really wanted to sing in Spanish and she was so excited. We did the song in Spanish and English, but it was like she was more excited about the Spanish version. And she nailed it! She nailed it from the beginning. There was really not much for me to say to her. I probably corrected her once or twice in the pronunciation, but she came prepared and she brought it. She’s an amazing, amazing, amazing vocalist.

You’re going to be a battle advisor on The Voice. What was the experience like to work with Kelly Clarkson?

She’s awesome. What you see is what you get. She’s honest. She’s funny. She’s talented. She’s humble and she’s been very supportive of my career. She invited me to her show and it speaks a lot that she wanted me to be a part of her team as a Battle Advisor for the new season. She supports Latin music and I’m grateful for that. She’s everything you hope she would be. She’s the real deal, a true star, and just one of the coolest people on this planet.

What can we expect from you in 2021?

A lot of new music. Obviously, everything starts today with “Vacío.” This is literally the beginning of what this new album will be. I’ve done nothing but write and record during the last 10 months, so I have a bunch of songs. Great collaborations coming up. I really think the album will be out probably [in the] third or fourth quarter this year. The songs are there and I’m really eager for everybody to hear them.

Read: We Finally Have A Spanish-Language Song As The Most Streamed Song Of All Time

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Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

Things That Matter

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Dangerous: Cartels Are Using TikTok To Lure Young People

If you’ve ever wondered what someone with a bulletproof vest and an AR-15 would look like flossing — the dance, not the method of dental hygiene — apparently the answer to that question can be found on TikTok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as a part of some absurdist sketch comedy or surreal video art installation. Instead, it’s part of a growing trend of drug cartels in Mexico using TikTok as a marketing tool. Nevermind the fact that Mexico broke grim records last year for the number of homicides and cartel violence, the cartels have found an audience on TikTok and that’s a serious cause for concern.

Mexican cartels are using TikTok to gain power and new recruits.

Just a couple of months ago, a TikTok video showing a legit high-speed chase between police and drug traffickers went viral. Although it looked like a scene from Netflix’s Narcos series, this was a very real chase in the drug cartel wars and it was viewed by more than a million people.

Typing #CartelTikTok in the social media search bar brings up thousands of videos, most of them from people promoting a “cartel culture” – videos with narcocorridos, and presumed members bragging about money, fancy cars and a luxury lifestyle.

Viewers no longer see bodies hanging from bridges, disembodied heads on display, or highly produced videos with messages to their enemies. At least not on TikTok. The platform is being used mainly to promote a lifestyle and to generate a picture of luxury and glamour, to show the ‘benefits’ of joining the criminal activities.

According to security officials, the promotion of these videos is to entice young men who might be interested in joining the cartel with images of endless cash, parties, military-grade weapons and exotic pets like tiger cubs.

Cartels have long used social media to shock and intimidate their enemies.

And using social media to promote themselves has long been an effective strategy. But with Mexico yet again shattering murder records, experts on organized crime say Cartel TikTok is just the latest propaganda campaign designed to mask the blood bath and use the promise of infinite wealth to attract expendable young recruits.

“It’s narco-marketing,” said Alejandra León Olvera, an anthropologist at Spain’s University of Murcia, in a statement to the New York Times. The cartels “use these kinds of platforms for publicity, but of course it’s hedonistic publicity.”

Mexico used to be ground zero for this kind of activity, where researchers created a new discipline out of studying these narco posts. Now, gangs in Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, and the United States are also involved.

A search of the #CartelTikTok community and its related accounts shows people are responding. Public comments from users such as “Y’all hiring?” “Yall let gringos join?” “I need an application,” or “can I be a mule? My kids need Christmas presents,” are on some of the videos.

One of the accounts related to this cartel community publicly answered: “Of course, hay trabajo para todos,” “I’ll send the application ASAP.” “How much is the pound in your city?” “Follow me on Instagram to talk.” The post, showing two men with $100 bills and alcohol, had more than a hundred comments.

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