The dissatisfaction of citizens coming to a boil has been a recurrent theme around the world in 2019. Violent protests over soaring costs of living, official corruption, and unemployment have gripped Hong Kong, Iraq, Ecuador, and Lebanon in recent months. Now Chile has joined the list.
Five days of violence, and unrest in the capital city of Santiago, and around the nation have evoked a government response. Chile’s president, and legislators are preparing a series of social equality reforms today in hopes it will stabilize the situation and bring peace to the streets. President Sebastian Pinera is sending a bill to the National Congress today that will overturn high electricity rates. A second bill will be dispatched tomorrow calling for minimum pension payouts to be raised by 20%. Over the weekend, protests touched off by a subway fare increase escalated to looting, arson, and riots. Pinera declared a state of emergency and brought in the military to restore order.
The violence came as a shock for Chileans as their country has long been a bastion of political, and economic stability in South America. Rising subway fare proved to be the tipping point for Chile’s poor and middle class, though it is clear the unrest has been about far more. Rising utility costs, sluggish wages, and meager pensions. The nation’s economy has also suffered from global trade tensions, rising oil prices, and sliding copper prices. Copper is Chile’s main export. Despite this, Chile’s economic gains in recent years have been impressive. The problem is that many Chileans feel left out by the gains.
The government is hoping for the reforms to bring peace and stability back to the streets. Riots had continued yesterday following Pinera’s apology and announcement of coming reforms. Today, action being taken in the congress, the number of rioters in Santiago has been considerably smaller. As the week comes to an end it will become clear if Chile is in for another weekend of unrest, or if the government reforms have quelled the angry mood of the people.