Photo Susana Hidalgo
"Neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die in Chile"
has become a rallying cry for the movement.
Yet few in the West are aware of the country's
tumultuous history as an experimental laboratory
for free market economics imposed on Chile
by the United
The "enemy" he was referencing were Chilean citizens, more than one million of them taking to the streets Friday afternoon in a revolt against the neoliberal system that Sebastian Piñera was implementing against their will, demanding his resignation.
The spark for the revolt that started October 14 was a 30-Peso increase to the subway fare in Santiago, the country's capital and by far its largest and most important city.
But demonstrations quickly escalated into a general protest against the decades of neoliberal economic policies carried out by successive governments that increased the cost of living and marginalized and disenfranchised the population, leading to greater social and economic inequality.
As a popular slogan of the protest goes:
The government's response has been brutal.
The President has declared a state of emergency across much of the country and ordered tanks through Santiago to break the movement in images that would be on endless repeat in our media if Piñera were not such a loyal ally of Washington:
This is one reason why many in Chile see the threat to their country coming not from the people in the streets, but from the Piñera administration itself.
While most of the images we see emanating from Chile are from Santiago, the protests have spread across the country, including to the sleepy southern regions where MintPress News staff writer Whitney Webb lives and reports from.
Speaking earlier today she emphasized the regional differences in the protests:
The protesters see themselves as fighting to end the neoliberal model imposed on them since 1973.
Yet few in the West are aware of the country's tumultuous history as an experimental laboratory for free-market economics imposed on Chile by the United States.
A Warning from History
After managing to overthrow the democratically-elected Marxist President Salvador Allende in a 1973 coup, the United States had an opportunity to construct a new society based on neoliberal principles, with the help of the new fascist dictator, Augusto Pinochet.
The country became the "empire's workshop," where American economists had free rein to construct the perfect society along market principles.
The problem was that the population did not want everything privatized, sold off to foreign corporations, for workers' rights to be removed and the social safety net to be destroyed.
Therefore, the population had to be terrorized into submission first.
The economy immediately collapsed, as did living conditions for ordinary people. It continued to underperform and proved extraordinarily volatile throughout the 70s and 80s.
However, the upper class prospered, and many foreign investors became incredibly rich, explaining perhaps why the Washington Post described the country as an "economic miracle" and a "model" for others to follow.
Chile became one of the most unequal countries in the world:
While the dictatorship is formally over, Pinochet negotiated a transition from a position of power, leaving many of his henchmen in high office and those handpicked and fast-tracked under the fascist dictatorship now in top positions in the police, army, courts and the media.
Furthermore, the neoliberal economic system and Pinochet's constitution remained, as did the people's fear of the government and what it was capable of.
Pablo spoke to MintPress News about the protests threatening to upend the social order.
A protester mocks Chile's President Sebastian Pinera
during an anti-government protest in Santiago, Chile,
Oct. 25, 2019.
Rodrigo Abd | AP
Despite the "vicious levels of repression" by security forces, Navarrete claimed that his country has reached a,
What is the way forward now?
Can the protesters topple a president, or will the replacement of a figurehead without meaningful structural change achieve anything?
Mainstream media, like CNN, NBC News and The Guardian, have shown far less interest in, or solidarity with, Chile than Hong Kong, framing the former not as protests, but as "riots," a word never used to describe the Hong Kong protests.
Webb criticized the press for their warped coverage:
Navarrete agreed, recommending that,
There has been comparatively little coverage of the massive movement in Chile. And much of it obscures what the protests are for, and crucially, what they are.
Neoliberalism is largely absent in mainstream reporting of the protests:
Meanwhile Slate amended the title of an article originally titled "Chile's People Have Had Enough of Neoliberalism" so the headline read simply "Chile's People Have Had Enough", removing all mention of the word from their reporting
The real driver in all this, according to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, was not crony capitalism, but the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela, who are "playing a key role" in directing the movement.
Piñera, it explains, was,
Only a fool would believe these protests are organic, it explains.
The United States, however, sees a Russian hand directing the protest.
Trump-appointed Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak claimed that the Kremlin has penetrated Chilean social networks and was circulating fake news in order to inflame tensions.
Meanwhile Human Rights Watch,
...called for the swift prosecution… of the protestors...!
Its Director of the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, stating,
The full-scale crackdown and the suspension of the most basic civil liberties merely had Vivanco "worried" that "there has been an excess of force" from the government.
The Future of Chile
Piñera has already gutted his cabinet in an attempt to placate the public.
But Webb suspects the protesters will not be silenced so easily.
Despite the elite voices in the West working to undermine the emerging anti-austerity movement, Navarrete is hopeful:
Corporate media is unlikely to give the protestors a fair hearing, given what their demands are and what they are struggling against, but that should not surprise or disappoint them.
Those who witnessed how,
...were treated by the press, know how it works.
After all, as the jazz poet Gil Scott Heron told us,