In the most serious unrest since the fall of Augusto Pinochet in 1998, the military and police forces have arrested thousands throughout the country and hundreds have been shot, injured and beaten while protesting throughout the country.
The protests which first broke out in response to a 3.7 percent rise in subway fares, have morphed into mass demonstrations against rising inequality with protesters calling for improved pay, pensions, schools, housing and medical care.
The unrest prompted President Piñera to declare a state of emergency in the capital Santiago and other cities, and give the order to deploy 20,000 troops onto the streets. President Piñera also ordered the first military curfew since the country returned to democracy in 1990 following the right-wing Pinochet dictatorship.
According to the independent National Human Rights Institute, 997 people have been injured, but doctors have accused authorities of under-reporting injuries. The UN high commission on human rights announced that it will send a team to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against demonstrators.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin today condemned the repressive actions of the government and called on the president to take steps to resolve the deadly crisis.
“We are deeply disturbed to see and hear reports of deaths, injuries, violence and allegations of the use of excessive force by police and armed forces. Authorities must respect the right of all people to freedom of expression, to protest peacefully, without fear of persecution,” said Crumlin.
“The global ITF family will continue to stand together and support our affiliated unions, the tens of thousands of transport workers and the hundreds of thousands of workers who are out on strike and marching on the streets against the neoliberal policies of the government of President Sebastián Piñera,” said Crumlin.
The ITF today called on President Piñera to engage in immediate dialogue with unions and civil society organisations to resolve the deadly crisis which has gripped the nation.
“The President must listen to the people and their just demands, and attempt to find a peaceful solution that restores the social protections that workers in Chile are demanding. If President Piñera doesn’t address the rising tide of discontent across the nation, and tear apart the neoliberal policies that are at the heart of the current unrest, he has no choice but to resign and call for elections,” said Crumlin.