The scene, which was captured on video and soon went viral, was among the most brutal in over two months of protests in Santiago, Chile. The video showed an armored vehicle chasing a young man and crushing him against another armored vehicle, fracturing his pelvis, and then retreating, chased off by thousands of angry protesters.
This is the effect of the “zero tolerance” policy promised by the administrator of the metropolitan region, Felipe Guevara, against unauthorized demonstrations. The latest large one took place on Friday in Plaza de la Dignidad (“Dignity Square,” as the protesters are calling Plaza Italia), the epicenter of the revolt against the Piñera government. The mother of the young man in the video, Marta Cortez, wrote on Twitter: “My son Oscar was brutally, intentionally hit and crushed by two riot vehicles. It’s a miracle he survived. This barbarity, endorsed by the ‘monster of the Interior’ and by the Chilean state, must end.”
A new and disturbing detail about this barbaric repression has only emerged in recent days: according to a study released by Movimiento Salud en Resistencia, the water fired from water cannons by the carabineros during the protests was found to contain irritant gas and lye.
While a few thousand protesters are still braving the constant repression on the militarized streets, Congress has given the go-ahead to the “constituent process” and made new (and irrelevant) concessions in view of the April 26 referendum. Chileans will have to decide whether they favor or oppose the drafting of a new constitution, as well as which kind of body will be responsible for drafting it: either a mixed constitutional convention (50% consisting of elected representatives and the other half made up of the current members of Congress) or a constitutional convention (elected in its entirety by the people).
The current members of Congress are doing everything they can to make the first option more credible—which remains a massive ruse, since the two-thirds majority criterion for the approval of every single article of the new constitution would give the right a solid veto power. Accordingly, they’ve finally introduced the principle of gender parity and quotas for indigenous people and for independent candidates, who had initially been excluded and who are disproportionately penalized by the current electoral system.
However, while their objective is well known—maintaining the status quo and putting an end to the protests—their attempt to throw some crumbs to the people who took to the streets seems to be already working to some extent: although the people are no less discontent, after the truce decided by the Mesa de Unidad Social, the mobilizations have been gradually losing strength.
There was a large turnout at the non-binding public consultation organized by 226 out of the 345 municipalities in the country on the subject of the constitution: 91% of the two million citizens who took part in the vote were in favor of a new constitution, and 78% of them opted for a constitutional convention that would be entirely elected by the people.
Among the main social priorities that the voters were keen on, the first was raising pensions (to secure an improvement in living conditions for the elderly), followed by an improvement in the quality of public health, access to good education, the reduction of income inequality and the fight against impunity.
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