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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Social unrest in Chile at structural inequality and repression in leadup to COP25 climate conference

There was an estimated one million people on the streets of Santiago, Chile, and large numbers in cities up and down Chile on Friday 25 October, in peaceful protests calling for social justice, better pension system, addressing social inequality, resignation of President Piñera, and a new constitution.

This was triggered just over a week ago by a second fare hike to the Santiago Metro, with school students taking up the protests initially that broadened to general social protest at the cost of living and social inequalities with a deeply neoliberal economic system.

The social crisis is also an ecological crisis.

President Pinera called out the military onto the streets in a repressive response: tanks and soldiers with live rounds, state of emergency called and night curfews in most cities. There are already allegations of torture. An announcement of Winding back the fare increase was too little, too late.

Chancellor Teodoro Rivera says 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference #COP25 (which I have NGO observer accreditation to attend from Dec 2-13) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will not be cancelled; instead, preparations will 'adapt to current national circumstances', according to Chile Today on Facebook. The world will be watching closely.

Chilean Civil Society NGO Sociedad Civil por la Acción Climática has called for #COP25 to be held elsewhere due to the constitutional state of emergency. Read the declaration in Spanish and English.

"A week after the beginning of the Constitutional State of Emergency and the militarization of Chile, we emphasize that this crisis is grounded in a basal injustice, which has created a permanent limitation of the rights of citizens.

"A clear example of this injustice is the existence of «sacrifice zones», where entire communities have been condemned to live under high levels of pollution and a permanent violation of their constitutional right to life. It is also an abuse to make citizens invisible, placing barriers to their participation in public decision-making processes, access to environmental justice and information, denying fundamental rights such as the human right to water, and commodifying nature as an object of extractivism.

"The world is looking at Chile as the epicenter of the current socio-environmental crisis and the upcoming climate debate at COP 25. It is not viable to discuss the future of the planet, climate justice and the commitments of each state through its NDCs in a country like Chile that has broken the rule of law. Moreover, considering that in Chile the military has been sent to contain the expressions of social unrest, generating panic, assassinations and tortures.

"The organized civil society has prepared itself intensely to participate in the debates of COP 25 through the Social Summit for Climate Action, and other instances, as the Peoples' Summit and the Social Forum Cop 25. However, we are convinced that the COP cannot take place in the context of a Constitutional State of Emergency, with a military presence on the streets.

"Chile must re-establish the rule of law as soon as possible and initiate an inclusive dialogue for national unity. This dialogue must be achieved through a new social pact that includes, at least, a constituent assembly for a new constitution, in which respect for a sound civil society and protection of the environment are crucial to well-being and national development.

"Therefore, as the Civil Society for Climate Action, we call on the national and international community to pressure the Chilean Government for holding the COP 25 in a country where democracy and constitutional rights are respected. The latter requires, on the one hand, the removal of the military from the streets and, on the other hand, pursuing full justice against human rights violations committed during these days."

Evidently the Spanish version is slightly different text, and Chilean NGOs are not calling for the COP to be moved somewhere else. They want the COP to be in Chile, as long as the rule of law is re-stablished, military out of the streets and changes start to happen.

I am watching developments carefully before my scheduled departure in early November.

Meanwhile in Melbourne...

and in breaking news...President Piñera has asked his ministers to resign, curfew has ended.

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