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  • Demonstrators take cover with makeshift shields during a protest against Chile's government, in Santiago, Chile November 20, 2019.

    Demonstrators take cover with makeshift shields during a protest against Chile's government, in Santiago, Chile November 20, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 November 2019
Opinion

Italia Square, ground zero of the protests and renamed by the protesters as 'Dignity Square', once again became the epicenter of a large gathering that generally took place in a peaceful manner.

Thousands of people returned to the streets Monday to mark the first month of the most serious civil unrest of Chilean democracy and show their distrust of both the social agenda announced by the government and the parliamentary agreement on a new constitution.

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What began on Oct. 14 as a call by Chilean university students to sneak into the Santiago subway to protest against the increase in the ticket prices became protests unparalleled in the last three decades, with no identified leaders and a cry for a fairer economic model.

“In the last four weeks, Chile changed; the Chileans changed, the government changed; we all have changed. The social pact under which we had lived broke down,” said President Sebastian Piñera, who at the beginning of the crisis announced a series of social measures in parliament.

Piñera also acknowledged for the first time that there have been abuses and excessive use of force by security forces, which he promised to sanction.

On Friday, lawmakers agreed on a plebiscite for April 2020 so citizens can decide if they want a new constitution and which body should write it.

The unrest has left at least 23 dead – five of them allegedly at the hands of state agents – and 2,381 injured, of which 222 have serious eye injuries, according to the latest report by Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights.

Chilean militarized police (known as Carabineros) said on Monday that there have been more than 15,000 arrests since Oct. 18, of which 4,000 were linked to looting.

Santiago, Peñalolen, the repression continues, the front line is repressed in this way.
 

For University of Chile's sociologist Octavio Avendaño, “the persistence of people in continuing to express their discontent reflects that each of the attempts to calm or ease the conflict have not been effective.”

“There are two things that are pending: the social agenda and human rights. As long as they are not resolved, the conflict will continue,” the expert told EFE.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, began a multi-day visit to the country on Monday to investigate hundreds of complaints of abuse, torture, sexual violence and homicides by the security forces.

The IACHR joins other organizations on the ground, such as Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

IACHR executive secretary Paulo Abrao met separately with justice minister Hernan Larrain, and with the president of the Supreme Court Haroldo Brito, as well as with representatives of 50 civil organizations.

“The commission focuses mainly on the future conditions of affirmation of the right to justice and reparation of the victims in a way that the operation of the justice system in this context is crucial,” Abrao said.

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