I supposed you have heard about what occurred in Chile from Oct 18th! A increase of the underground ticket (30 CL$, 0,20 US$) sparkled a far more profoundly rooted protest in Chile.
For the 30 last years, since the return of the democracy after 27 years of Pinochet’s dictatorship, Chile has know an incomparable economic growth in South America, with a more than 4 % of annual economic growth!
Unfortunately not everybody has been able to enjoyed this growth, and the minimum gross wage has stayed ridiculously low (approx. 400 US$) , perceived by a 10 % of the workers. The wage increase hasn’t followed either the cost of living in a growing consumer society.
In addition, this frustration has been stirred by the enormous gap between the minimum wage and the political class wages. A parliamentary wins in Chile 37 times the minimum wage ( 6 times in France or Germany for exemple), giving then the impression to the people that the politics do not represent them.
Another issue is the pension system that when from public to private (the famous AFP), and give actually worse pensions that the previous state-owned system, more than 40 % of them being under the poverty line!
Adding to that, the university tuition fees amongst the world highest, which had previously spurred huge student manifestations countrywide in the last years and you have got the best ingredient for the current revolt that almost every Chilean person understands whatever the social class or political party.
Indeed this crisis has not really a political color in the sense of everybody is conscious that it’s due to a more than a two-decade-long inaptitude of the successive government to tackle those real and well-defined problems.
The course of the revolt.
The first 3 days of the revolt as legitimate as it was, did scare the normally quiet Chilean population by its violence. More than anything else the sacking and the burning down of some Santiago metro stations, viewed as a public wealth, shocked most Chilean people. The rampage of stores also adds to the distress of the population who finally organized itself to avoid it with the help of the army (even though many people saw its presence as inadequate ) and police forces.
After a week of protest, the violence slowed down and more peaceful and uniting manifestations took place to culminate to the over one-million people manifestation in Santiago on Friday Oct 25th, which emotionally move every Chilean by its quietness, respect and lack of political banner!
What will be the outcome to this mass protest?
The Sebastian Piñera’s government took some measures but too light not to say insignificant, increasing slightly the minimum wage to 500 US$, augmenting the pensions of only 20%, reducing the metro ticket price, the cost of electricity among others.
But this won’t be enough to calm the national turmoil. Either his government makes more drastic changes or the crisis will surely continue.
I personally think that the president won’t have other choice than to give satisfaction to his people because the protest has been so massive and uniting that it won’t give up easily or for too light changes.
I personally see all this as a real opportunity to improve the social welfare of the Chilean people. Indeed the past 20 years, Chile has always been seen, on one hand, as a successful country in relation to its economy, stability, as an example of democracy in South America but, on the other hand, as a very unequal society in term of distribution of wealth. The mass protest could really soften if not resolve this issue.
What if I’ve planned a trip to Chile?
I came back from Europe on the 24th of October, in the middle of the crisis. I’ve landed at Santiago Airport that was functioning as usual. It actually surprised me due to the idea I had made of the situation through the press media. People were working as usual, as friendly and good-humored as they use to be. I took on time my connecting flight to Temuco before reaching my little town of Pucon, quiet as ever. I had seen a clash between young demonstrators and police forces in a local media 2 days before my arrival but it seemed already far away.
We’ll have to see the course of the few weeks to come but I honestly think that a trip in Chile is really possible, especially in the countryside and wilderness of the south. In case of major manifestation, I would avoid the big cities such as Santiago, Concepcion, Viña del Mar, Valparaiso.
Don’t hesitate to ask me any other information about this and an eventual planning of your trip in Chile, I will respond the most honestly possible.
All the best,