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Chile’s New Constitution, Wiping Away the Last Stains of Pinochet

BY ARIEL DORFMAN

It is not often that a country gets to decide its destiny in one momentous election. I am thinking, of course, of the United States. But I am also thinking of the referendum in Chile, where, this past Sunday, the people of that country decided by a landslide—78.27 percent of those who voted—to give themselves a new Constitution and thereby drastically redefine the way they wished to be governed.

Though a change in its founding document is not on the ballot in the United States, we should, here in America, pay close attention to what just happened in that distant land at the end of the earth. Heartened and inspired by the sight of ordinary people forcing a small ruling elite to accept, against all odds, the need for radical reforms, we would do well to learn some valuable lessons from that Chilean experience.

Sunday’s victory in Chile did not come easily or swiftly.

The Constitution that Chileans have just voted to supplant was installed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet in a fraudulent plebiscite in 1980, seven years after a lethal coup overthrew the democratically elected Socialist president, Salvador Allende. Pinochet’s Ley Fundamental—as it was called by those who drafted it—ostensibly established an itinerary for a transition to a restricted form of democracy, as there was to be another plebiscite in 1988 to ask citizens if they wished the general to remain in office for another eight (endlessly renewable) years. In reality, that Constitution guaranteed that, no matter who was in charge of the country, there would be no possibility of questioning the oppressive system that the dictator and his allies had built, particularly the neoliberal economic model of exploitation that had been imposed on workers with unprecedented violence.

And, in effect, when Pinochet lost that 1988 plebiscite and was forced to retire as president (retaining control of the armed forces, of course), the Magna Carta he left behind acted as a straitjacket that, for the next 30 years, blocked all key efforts to create a more just and equitable society. The center-left coalition that has governed Chile for most of that period was able to negotiate a number of amendments to Pinochet’s fascist Constitution—and, significantly, lift a large section of the country’s destitute population out of poverty—but none of those amendments altered the ability of a minority of right-wing legislators to undermine any attempt to alter the way in which wealth and power were distributed. And it was presumed that a populace traumatized by torture, executions, disappearances, exile, and incessant censorship and persecution would not dare to rebel against such an immoral situation.

And that is how things would still be today if a startling revolt had not exploded in mid-October of last year. Sparked initially by groups of students jumping subway turnstiles to protest a small hike in the fares, it soon grew into a nationwide uprising by millions of Chileans who threatened to bring down President Sebastián Piñera’s conservative and unpopular government. Though the demands were wide-ranging—for better salaries, health care, education, housing, environmental protection, clean water; for Indigenous, LGBTQ and women’s rights; for reforms to the miserable pension plans and the untrammeled ferocity with which the police operated—the one issue that united all those who had taken over the streets was the urgent need to get rid of Pinochet’s Constitution and its stranglehold on Chilean society.

Alarmed at what such an upheaval might unleash, right-wing leaders who had till then adamantly vetoed any changes to the status quo made up their mind to decompress the situation and avert a full-scale revolution by agreeing to hold a referendum in which voters would decide if they wanted a new Constitution, either choosing Apruebo (approval) or Rechazo (rejection).

Many of those hard-core Pinochetistas believed they would be able, as time went by, to derail that referendum. They insisted that the current Congress was perfectly capable, with much less effort and cost, of instituting some of the most salient transformations being called for. They used the pandemic to claim that it was too dangerous to carry out an election in those conditions (though they had no such qualms about opening malls!). And when that delaying tactic failed, they ran a vicious campaign of terror against “socialism,” warning that those in favor of a new Magna Carta were extremists intent on turning Chile into Venezuela.

The people repudiated them. The right-wing proponents of the Rechazo option have garnered a scant 21.73 percent of the vote. It is true that several major figures on the right, sensing where the wind was blowing, came out in favor of a new Constitution, but the verdict is inescapable. The Pinochet era is finally over.

As a native of Chile, I had planned to fly to Santiago with my wife to participate in this historic event, but we were unable to do so due to the perils posed by Covid-19.  I would have liked to witness the rebirth of a nation that seemed to have died when the coup destroyed our democracy all those decades ago. I was 28 years old when Salvador Allende became president and such a fervent enthusiast that, three years later, when he was overthrown, I was working at La Moneda, the building where he died, and was only saved from sharing his fate by a chain of incredible circumstances. Along with so many who believed in Allende’s dreams of a liberated Chile, I have spent most of my life since then hoping for a moment when those dreams of his would be echoed by future generations. That has now come to pass. The road to justice has been opened and, by the middle of 2022, Chileans will be governed by a Constitution that embodies the wishes and needs of the vast majority.

If I was unable to travel to Chile to celebrate this triumph of memory and courage over silence and death, I have been struck, as I celebrated this redemptive process from afar, by its significance for the United States, a country where I am also a citizen.

Indeed, along with my fellow countrymen and women, I am voting under a Constitution that severely curtails the will of the people. It is a travesty that we must choose our next president through a seriously flawed and antiquated system, with an Electoral College that does not reflect the preference of the majority. And it is just as much a scandal that we have a profoundly undemocratic Senate, where small states like Rhode Island or Wyoming carry as much weight as gigantic California or Texas. This is the legislative body that is responsible for approving Supreme Court justices, who have disenfranchised large sections of the population and allowed corporations to influence electoral outcome with an endless flow of unaccountable dollars. It is a Constitution, as Alex Keyssar has demonstrated in his remarkable book, Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?, that is tainted by the compromise reached by the Founders with Southern slave-owners and has remained a staunch bulwark of minority, white supremacist interests. It is a Constitution that has been unable to stop a psychopathic, serially mendacious demagogue like Trump from storming the executive office and trashing democracy, its norms, its institutions, its supposedly irreversible restraints of checks and balances. It has established a shameful system where profits matter more than people, where discrimination and racism are rampant, where the very rich can accumulate more wealth than the rest of the country combined.

There are, of course, many splendid features enshrined in that Constitution. Its defenders, including many who notice its limitations, point to the ways in which it has often served to expand freedom, maintain stability, and ensure prosperity, and therefore deem it possible to overcome the glaring inadequacies of that 18th-century document with more amendments and stopgap remedies, such as abolishing the Electoral College, introducing radical changes to the justice system, passing legislation that guarantees voting rights, giving statehood to Puerto Rico and senatorial representation to Washington DC.

For my part, I wonder if the current crisis of authority, the sense that the United States has fallen into disarray and madness, could not open the door to a more drastic solution. Would it not make more sense to engage in a process like the one that Chile has just gone through, where the people have taken upon themselves the right and obligation to determine the fundamental tenets and principles of the system and rules that govern their existence? Should we not at least start to envisage the possibility of calling for a constitutional convention as a way of addressing the failure of our country to live up to its promise of a more perfect union? Do the problems that beset us, so similar to those that plague our Chilean brothers and sisters—the systemic racism, the police brutality, the ecological disasters, the offensive disparity of income, the increased polarization of our public—not cry out for a radical reimagining of who we are? Has not the pestilence of Covid-19 revealed that we are woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead?

It could be argued that the economic, political, and historical conditions in Chile and the United States are so different that any comparison between the two is pointless. The US Constitution, for all its shortcomings, did not originate in a fraud like the one perpetrated by General Pinochet. And it is unlikely that enough citizens in the 50 states are so dissatisfied with their lot that they would be willing to undergo the sort of intense re-examination of their identity that Chileans are about to embark upon. I do not doubt, in fact, that most Americans, fearful of disruption, terrified that their country might crumble under yet more divisiveness, would prefer that alterations to their fundamental laws and institutions be carried out, if at all, by their elected representatives.

That was precisely how Chileans were told change would happen.

What they finally decided, after 30 years of waiting and increasing despair, was to use their extraordinary power as a mobilized people to demand action. What they understood is that the Constitution affected every aspect of their daily existence, even if they had no say in shaping it. The only way that it could cease to be an abstract, faraway document, unrepresentative and unresponsive to their concerns— the only way it could fully belong to them—was to fight for it, risk having their bodies bruised and their eyes blinded by police pellets, risk their jobs and their tranquility to create an order that they could recognize as their own and not imposed from above. What has been most amazing about the year since insubordinate Chileans forced a referendum to take place—and what will be yet more amazing in the year and a half ahead—is the vast educational value of discussing and gauging, measuring and weighing, the pros and cons of all manner of questions that are so often left to a select group of remote experts. The process itself of a joyful, collective reckoning with the past anticipates the sort of country that is envisioned, transforms and makes better those who are part of that communal exploration.

It is a process that, once begun, can be thrilling and emancipatory.

However long it takes for the American people to move in that direction—and the protests of the last months and the tradition of struggle for peace and justice that has always been beating in the epic heart of Martin Luther King Jr.’s country gives me hope that it will be sooner rather than later—there is one message from Chile that should always be borne in mind.

My family in Santiago sent me a photo of some words a young man had scribbled on a placard that he was parading around the city on his bike:

“Lo impensable se volvió posible porque salimos a exigirlo y el país no se vino abajo.”

The unthinkable became possible because we went out to demand it and the country did not crumble.

Or, as Salvador Allende—so alive today!—said, just minutes before dying in defense of democracy and dignity: The future is ours and it is made by the people.

La historia es nuestra y la hacen los pueblos.

This column first appeared in The Nation.

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Chile referendum: People’s uprising smashes dictatorship-era constitution

Photo of Gloria La Riva responds to second Biden vs. Trump presidential debate: The two capitalist parties offer workers nothing

Walter Smolarek

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By a massive margin, Chileans voted on Sunday to scrap the country’s constitution and elect a convention to write a new framework for the country’s government. Hundreds of thousands of Chileans last night packed Plaza Dignidad — the iconic center of the protest movement that swept the country a year ago — to celebrate the results.

78 percent of people who went to the polls voted to “Approve” the drafting of a new constitution, with “Reject” carrying a majority in only a tiny handful of the richest municipalities in the country.

“This is a win for the people through struggle and resistance in the streets,” argued Karla Martin, a Chilean activist who was an organizer in the country’s historic 2011 student strike. In October 2019, high school youth organized militant actions resisting an increase in public transportation fares. This quickly spiralled into a full-scale uprising of the working class, fed-up with decades of crushing inequality and exploitation.

The right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera called out the army and tried to enforce martial law to crush the rebellion. “Many, many people were injured, were tortured, hundreds have lost their eyesight, and many have died as well as a result of this uprising,” noted Martin. But this repression did not succeed — during the largest days of protest roughly 10 percent of the country’s entire population came out to demonstrate.

Some of those attending the celebrations the night of the referendum burned copies of the hated 1980 constitution that the country had just voted to scrap. This document was written during the fascist dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet took power in a CIA-orchestrated coup in 1973 against the democratically-elected Marxist president Salvador Allende. Pinochet murdered and tortured tens of thousands of his opponents in a brutal reign that lasted until 1990.

The 1980 constitution provided the state framework through which a particularly brutal, unrestrained model of capitalism popularly known as neo-liberalism was imposed on the country. The national pension system, the education system, healthcare, transportation, and even water were fully or partially privatized. Labor rights were rolled back and Chile became the most unequal country in the OECD club of advanced economies.

Key issues unresolved

While the overwhelming victory of “Approve” is a historic milestone, the struggle is far from over. The constitutional convention is simply a means to achieve the goals of the uprising, not the end goal itself. Martin listed a series of measures the new constitution would need to include to satisfy the demands of the movement: “All the natural resources must be nationalized, education must be free, healthcare must be free, the private pension fund must be replaced by a social pension fund. All the public utilities including water must be nationalized. There has to be self-determination for the [Indigenous] Mapuche people. Their persecution has to be put to an end and all the political prisoners have to be released.”

A date will now have to be set for the election of the constitutional convention. There are many unanswered questions about how the elections will be conducted, especially how people can qualify to run. And the right wing government may use the emergency powers it assumed amid the COVID-19 pandemic to crack down on campaigning by popular candidates.

Martin is concerned about a possible parallel between the situation today and the 1988 referendum that played a central role in the end of the Pinochet regime. The Chilean people heroically defied the dictatorship and voted in large numbers to oust Pinochet, “but what ended up happening was a treason to the people who believed in that referendum. In fact the neo-liberal system perpetuated for 30 years.”

The constitutional convention “is a concession that the ruling class had to give to the people because they had no other choice, but it was also something that was negotiated” among political elites, she noted, concluding that, “We cannot retreat, we have to stay in the streets and keep organizing in our territories, keep fighting until we bring down the whole system.”

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Will Policy of Destabilizing Latin American Countries Help Trump to be Re-Elected?

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research,

As the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election campaign heats up, there is every chance that Donald Trump can become a one-term president as the popularity of Bernie Sanders increases despite the sabotage within his own Democrat Party against him. There still remains a strong possibility that Sanders can become the next president sitting in the White House. Sanders continues to grow mass appeal, with former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon even conceding last month that the Democrat candidate is a “populist,” even if it is different to that of Trump’s. Sanders appeals to the impoverished by directing the frustrations of Middle America to the ultrarich who are fighting tooth and nail to bring the U.S. to Western standards by providing free education and healthcare. This is in contrasts to Trump’s populism which redirects anger of Middle America’s increasing impoverishment to the so-called immigrant “invasion” coming from Latin America.

One of Trump’s main platforms for his seemingly ‘unlikely’ election win, as many so-called experts thought of it back in 2016, was to build a wall traversing the border between the U.S. and Mexico to make it even more difficult for illegal immigrants to enter the North American country. All the slurs and accusations of racism were not able to subdue Trump’s fever as many in Middle America believed they finally found a candidate that spoke their language, addressed their issues and provided a solution to the so-called problem of illegal immigrants “invading” their country. Trump of course knows that illegal immigrants are not the reason for the U.S. problems of de-industrialization, lack of job opportunities, unaffordability and poverty – but it was this rhetoric that projected him into what was an unexpected win for the presidency against Hillary Clinton.

With Sanders speaking of a new populism, not based on a so-called invasion from immigrants, but actually addressing the real issues of the U.S. political and economic system, it is likely that Trump will resort back to the fear of Latin American illegal immigrants to project him to the presidency. This of course may not be necessary in the likely case that the Democrats ignore the popularity of Sanders to go for a Hillary Clinton-like hack and establishment pawn like Joe Biden who will prove unpopular against Trump. None-the-less, Trump will not take chances and will begin using the refugee card, frightening U.S. voters with the threat of new flows coming from Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, Mexico and other countries.Trump’s Win Wasn’t Ideological. It Was Brilliant

Meanwhile the world’s focus right now is on the Greek-Turkish border where tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are trying to enter Greece on the orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with a high level of international solidarity going to the European country. However, there are stark differences between the migration crisis between the U.S. and Greece. Greece is an impoverished post-colonial country that was under Turkish occupation for over 400 years and does not have the means to support such large numbers.

Nor is Greece the reason for this migrant crisis as it had not invaded Afghanistan, where the majority of illegal migrants come from despite the incorrect reporting that they are Syrian, nor did Greece invade or apply economic sanctions on Pakistan, Iran, North Africa and Syria where the other illegal migrants are from. In the case of Latin America though, the U.S. is the key country in destabilizing the region and therefore has a responsibility to attend to the refugees that itself created. Although many in Middle America are impoverished, this is a result of their own leaderships economic policies, and rather the U.S. is the world’s richest country and has the means and capabilities of dealing with Latin American migrants it creates.

Non-the-less, as the so-called “invasion” of illegal immigrants has drastically decreased, Trump will be wanting to desperately destabilize Latin American countries to create an atmosphere of fear in the U.S. ahead of the presidential election to show voters that he is their only and sole defender whom they must elect in order to secure their future and safety. It worked in 2016 and he will be betting for it to work again later this year. Trump has already mentioned he has some kind of intentions of doing this during an address to the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit only yesterday.

“We’re with Venezuela all the way, and we’re doing a lot, and we have a lot planned,” said Trump, adding that

“the tragedy in Venezuela is a reminder that socialism and communism bring misery and heartache everywhere they’re tried,” prompting a cry of “gracias” from a member of the audience.

Trump has consistently applied devastating sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to force the removal of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and in support of wannabe president Juan Guaidó.

However, these sanctions have had such a devastating effect on the Venezuelan economy that it has prompted many people from the country to seek a better life in the U.S. Trump has not hidden away from the fact that he has “a lot planned” for Venezuela, which only guarantees further misery in the country. Unlike Greece, the U.S. prompts illegal migration by destroying the very countries that these people come from. Not only does this destruction serve U.S. corporate interests in these countries, it will also serve Trump’s re-election campaign as there is a strong likelihood that a new immigration crisis will appear at the borders between Mexico and the U.S.

Posted in USA, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, C.I.A, CUBA, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, PeruComments Off on Will Policy of Destabilizing Latin American Countries Help Trump to be Re-Elected?

From Monroe to Trump. US Sponsored Military Coups in Latin America

By Global Research New

Video: Syrian Armed Forces Teach ‘2nd Strongest NATO Army’ Painful Lesson in Idlib

By South Front,

Units of the Russian Military Police entered the town of Saraqib in eastern Idlib following the second liberation of the town from al-Qaeda terrorists and Turkish forces. According to the Russian military, the deployment took place at 5:00pm local time on March 2 and was intended to provide security and allow traffic through the M4 and M5 highways. In fact, the Russians came to put an end to Turkish attempts to capture the town and cut off the M5 highway in this area.

From Monroe to Trump. US Sponsored Military Coups in Latin America

By Elson Concepción Pérez,

The latest threat to Venezuela of a possible military intervention, the recent coup in Bolivia under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS), the tightening of the blockade of Cuba, destabilization in Nicaragua, and open interference in the internal affairs of countries in the region, where democratic governments have set the standards for development and sovereignty, do not come as a surprise.

The US-Taliban ‘Peace Deal’? Imperial State Criminality and Terrorism, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui and “Restorative Justice”

By Junaid S. Ahmad,

The US/NATO war and occupation of Afghanistan offers a glaring case of what US Senator Fulbright (yes, the one who started the Fulbright program of scholarships and exchanges) called the ‘arrogance of power’ (of his country), his book being of the same title. The wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, with a war machine on steroids, invading and occupying for nearly two decades one of the poorest countries on the planet – and one which had already undergone two decades of uninterrupted internecine war in the prior two decades.

Keep It Simple and Question: Propaganda, Technology, and Coronavirus COVID-19

By Edward Curtin,

Two of the major problems the world faces – world destruction with nuclear weapons and the poisoning of the earth’s ecology and atmosphere – are the result of the marriage of science and technique that has given birth to the technological “babies” (Little Boy and Fat Man) that were used by the U.S. to massacre hundreds of thousands of Japanese and now threaten to incinerate everyone, and the chemical and toxic inventions that have despoiled the earth, air, and water and continue to kill people worldwide through America’s endless war-making and industrial applications.

Turkey in Syria: Down a Blind Alley in an Unwinnable War?

By Tony Cartalucci,

Turkey had been making some promising steps in the right direction since Washington’s disastrous proxy regime-change war in Syria began unraveling – yet it still maintains a problematic position inside Syrian territory, backing what are unequivocally terrorists and obstructing Syria’s sovereign right to recover and restore order within its own borders.

The latest and most dangerous manifestation of this untenable policy is the increasingly frequent and fierce clashes between Turkish forces occupying Syrian territory and Syrian forces themselves moving deeper into the northern Syrian governorate of Idlib.

Neoliberal Globalization Is Pushing Humanity “Towards the Edge”

By Shane Quinn,

There have been a number of harmful consequences as a result of the neoliberal era, which emerged in the late 1970s, taking off during the tenures of Ronald Reagan (US president, 1981-1989) and Margaret Thatcher (British prime minister, 1979-1990). There has been an explosion of private power, splintering of societies, destabilization of the financial system, and so on.

Neoliberal globalization has been an important factor too in political parties shifting further to the right, and succumbing to the power of increasingly dominant multinational corporations. This is most notable in America where the Republican Party (or organization) has moved so far off the spectrum that traditional republicans from previous decades would hardly recognize it today.

Why Are Stocks Crashing?

By Mike Whitney,

Uncertainty. It’s impossible for investors to gauge the economic impact of the rapidly-spreading coronavirus or its effect on stock prices. Investors buy stocks with the expectation that their investment will grow over time. In periods of crisis, when the environment becomes unfamiliar and opaque, expectations are crushed under the weigh of uncertainty. When expectations dampen, investors sell.

Posted in USA, Brazil, CUBA, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Peru, Puerto Rico, South America, VenezuelaComments Off on From Monroe to Trump. US Sponsored Military Coups in Latin America

Viral Chilean feminist anthem reveals powerful international sentiment against sexual violence

By Candice Yanez

Viral Chilean feminist anthem reveals powerful international sentiment against sexual violence

“A rapist in your path” being performed in Mexico City. Photo: Wotancito. Creative Commons Atribución-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional

Originally posted on Breaking the Chains.

A Chilean feminist anthem against rape and the systematic oppression of women has gone viral worldwide. ‘Un Violador en Tu Camino’ – ‘A Rapist on Your Path’ – has been performed in Mexico, Colombia, France, Spain, the UK−to name a few.

The protest song was first performed for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 20 in Valparaíso, Chile. A large flash mob of women with black cloth covering their eyes chanted the lyrical protest while performing the song’s accompanying choreography. A Chilean feminist art collective called LaTesis, compried of feminist artists Daffne Valdés, Sibila Sotomayor, Paula Cometa, and Lea Cáceres, wrote the popular song.

The lyrics describe how the capitalist political structure comprised of the police, the justice system and the powerful elite uphold the systematic oppression of women:

“The patriarchy is a judge
Who judges us by birth?
And our punishment
Is the violence you do not see. (x2)
It is femicide.
Impunity for my killer.
It is disappearance.
It is rape.
And the fault was not mine, not where I was, nor what I wore. (x4)
The rapist was you.
The rapist is you.
It is the cops,
The judges,
The State,
The President.
The oppressive state is a macho rapist. (x2)
‘Sleep well, innocent girl,
Do not worry about the bandit,
Your sweet and smiling sleep
Is taken care of by your loving Carabinero.’
The rapist is you. (x4)”

While the song was written before the wave of protests began in October, still it describes the police repression of protestors that has resulted in numerous allegations of rape, torture, and murder. Protestors performed the song as a creative action within the wave of mass demonstrations against Chile’s neoliberal policies going into their second month.

The song and performance speaks directly to the Chilean experience but has become a worldwide phenomenon because it speaks to the experience of women across the globe. The song not only captures the political moment in Chile, but speaks to women fighting for justice worldwide.

Renditions of the song have taken place in various settings across the globe: public spaces, town squares and in front of municipal buildings. The song has been performed in many places worldwide, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Spain, Germany, France, Mexico and Istanbul.

According to the United Nations report, a third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence, and half of women murdered were killed by their partners or a family member. An overwhelming 70 percent of women in the U.S. experience sexual harassment. The statistics rank rape among some of the most pervasive human rights crises in the world, yet it is one of the least reported.

Sexual assault is under-reported because it is often unpunished but also because the police themselves, to whom the reports are made, use sexual assault as a tool of repression. According to LaTesis’ Sibila Sotomayor during an interview : “In general, only 8 percent of rape cases in Chile end with some type of condemnation, so clearly there is something systemically at the level of public policies that is not working.” In the United States, only 4 out of 10 rapes are reported.

The viral song and performance refer to the Chilean police (carabineros) and satirizes the Chilean police slogan “A friend on your path.” According to a report by the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) on Nov. 30, there have been approximately 508 complaints filed against the Chilean police since the protests began.

The Chilean militarized police have left at least 23 dead, 2,300 injured and 7,000 detained Women participating in the protests have brought numerous cases and allegations of Chilean police sexually assaulting them. Currently, there are 74 allegations of rape as well as reports that police forced women to undress and sexually abused them.

The global epidemic of sexual violence perpetuated against women is a remnant of women’s historic status as property that derives from the emergence of class society. The ongoing fight for the equality of women and the eradication of misogynistic violence is an international one. Women across the globe are mobilizing to demand the end oppression and inequality. As the popularity of ‘Un Violador en Tu Camino’ demonstrates, we can create a formidable movement for revolution and liberation when we join together in large numbers!

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Hope Lies in the Streets

Economic tyranny lies at the root of the unrest in Hong Kong, India, Chile, France, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon as well as the rise of right-wing demagogues and false prophets such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

by: Chris Hedges

The decay and rupture of the social bonds that once held our societies together have unleashed the dark pathologies of opioid, alcohol and gambling addictions and led to an explosion of hate crimes and mass shootings, along with suicide. (Photo: Mr. Fish / Truthdig)

The decay and rupture of the social bonds that once held our societies together have unleashed the dark pathologies of opioid, alcohol and gambling addictions and led to an explosion of hate crimes and mass shootings, along with suicide. (Photo: Mr. Fish / Truthdig)

Global finance capital has seized control of the economies of most nation-states. The citizens watch, helplessly, as money and goods are transferred with little regulation across borders. They watch as jobs in manufacturing and the professions are shipped to regions of the global south where most workers are paid a dollar or less an hour and receive no benefits. They watch as the taxes of the rich and corporations are slashed, often to zero. They watch as austerity programs dismantle or privatize utilities and basic social services, jacking up fees to consumers. They watch as chronic unemployment and underemployment devastate workers, especially the young. They watch as wages stagnate or decline, leaving working men and women with unsustainable debts. This economic tyranny lies at the root of the unrest in Hong Kong, India, Chile, France, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon as well as the rise of right-wing demagogues and false prophets such as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It does not matter whether liberals or conservatives, Tories or Labour, Republicans or Democrats are in power. Finance capital is impervious to political control. The newly defeated Labour Party in Britain, by adopting a Brexit-neutral stance in the election, badly misread the zeitgeist. Yes, its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had to contend with hysterical warnings of economic collapse and endured a smear campaign—amplified by a media mouthing the accusations of his Tory opponents—that included claims he was a threat to national security and an anti-Semite, but his and Labour’s failure to appreciate how desperate workers were for a solution, even one growing out of magical thinking about the promise of Brexit, was a mistake. Brexit is not a realistic alternative to economic tyranny. But it at least offers a hope, however unfounded, of shattering the bonds of corporate power. It posits itself as a weapon in the war between the insiders and the outsiders. That this desperate hope by the outsiders is peddled by con artists and charlatans such as Johnson and Trump is part of the sickness of our age, an echo of the economic distortions and right-wing populism that saw fascists rise to power in Italy and Germany in the first part of the 20th century.

Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Exxon Mobile, Walmart, Apple and Amazon are the modern versions of the East India Company or La Compagnie Française de l’Orient et de la Chine. These and others among today’s global corporations, with the assistance of the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, have created unassailable monopolies and effectively hollowed out many nation-states, both physically and culturally. Forlorn, derelict urban wastelands, populated by the bitterly dispossessed, are as common in France or Britain as they are in America’s Rust Belt. Governments, captive to corporate control, have been prostituted to transfer wealth upward, swell corporate profits and crush dissent at the expense of democracy.

The decay and rupture of the social bonds that once held our societies together have unleashed the dark pathologies of opioid, alcohol and gambling addictions and led to an explosion of hate crimes and mass shootings, along with suicide. Social control provided by work, civic and political participation—bonds that integrated us into our communities and gave us a sense of place, dignity and agency—has been handed over to a heavily militarized police, a massive prison system and a judicial system complicit in abolishing basic rights, including due process and privacy.

So, to steal a line from Vladimir Lenin, what is to be done? Can a reformist political candidate, a Bernie Sanders or perhaps an Elizabeth Warren—although I question the authenticity of Warren—defeat Trump and the retrograde forces that empower him? Or will the U.S. reformers suffer Corbyn’s fate? In short, can the system be reformed from the inside? Or will we have to take to the streets, as the people are doing in Chile, Lebanon, France, Hong Kong and elsewhere, to demand the overthrow of corporate rule?

The left, even under Corbyn, is not ready to speak in revolutionary language. Revolutionary rhetoric within the political system has been adopted by the neofascists and the hard right. The Brexit debate is about blowing up the system, not working within it. Those who support Brexit and Johnson will, like those who support Trump, be betrayed. But the language employed by Johnson and Trump is about destruction, and this yearning for destruction runs deep among the working class. The tragedy is that by backing these demagogues the public is complicit in its own enslavement.

Extinction Rebellion, which I support, is attempting to counter this corporate assault and the consequent ecocide with revolutionary language and sustained civil disobedience designed to make governance impossible. I hope Extinction Rebellion will gain enough popular support to raise a strong barrier before the corporate state starts employing the brute force outlined in Operation Yellowhammer, the six-page British government plan that calls for the possible deployment of 50,000 regular and reserved troops and 10,000 riot police to cope with the unrest that might be caused by food and medical shortages following Britain’s departure from the European Union.

The violent suppression of protesters in France, Chile, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, India and Hong Kong is already underway, a window into what may be coming to England, the United States and other countries that attempt to throw off the yoke of corporate oppression.

The corporate state loathes the political left, but the American political left, by agreeing to operate within the constrained and largely rigged electoral system, is easily neutered, as liberalism was this year in Britain and was in 2016—and will be in 2020—in the United States. America’s Democratic Party leadership, as hostile to its progressive candidates as many in the Labour Party hierarchy in Britain were to Corbyn, employed a series of measures to prevent Sanders from obtaining the nomination in 2016. They included a superdelegates scheme, the use of hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate money, iron control of the Democratic National Committee and blocking those registered as independents from voting in Democratic primaries. Politicians such as Sanders and Corbyn are easily dispatched.

But while the corporate state detests political mavericks such as Sanders and Corbyn, it both hates and fears the revolutionary left. The revolutionary left speaks an unvarnished truth about corporate power and calls out the entire political ruling class for its complicity. It is not interested in accommodation. It seeks to disrupt and paralyze the corporate state. When many thousands, as in Hong Kong, take to the streets shouting slogans like “There are no rioters, only a tyrannical regime” and “It was you who taught me that peaceful marches are useless,” the corporate ruling elites begin to worry. This is why populist leaders, including Eric Drouet of the gilets jaunes, or yellow vests, in France, are arrested. It is why Roger Hallam, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, spent six weeks in jail this fall in Britain. It is why Edward Leung is serving a six-year prison sentence on charges of rioting and assaulting a police officer during the 2016 Fishball Revolution in Hong Kong. Revolutionaries refuse to play by the rules.

These global revolutionary movements embody a resurrection of the concept of the common good, the belief that a society should be structured around caring for all its members, especially the most vulnerable. They are forces of solidarity, even community. They understand, as the economist Karl Polanyi wrote, that there are two kinds of freedoms. There are the bad freedoms to exploit those around us and extract huge profits without regard to the common good. And there are the good freedoms—freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of meeting, freedom of association, freedom to choose one’s job—that the bad freedoms destroy. The bad freedoms, championed by an atomized, hyper-individualistic consumer culture, which kneels before the cult of the self, have triumphed. The death grip of the ruling elites was illustrated in recent days in Madrid, where world leaders refused during COP25—the United Nations’ conference on climate change—to take meaningful action to halt the climate emergency, an existential threat to humankind.

The bankrupt ideologies of globalization and neoliberalism, formulated and used to justify the consolidation of wealth and power as well as the ecocide that is devastating the planet, have, however, lost their credibility. Neoliberalism, the idea that once regulations on corporations and trade barriers are lifted and taxes slashed, a society will prosper, was always an absurdity. None of its promises could be defended by the history and theory of economics. Concentrating wealth in the hands of a global oligarchic elite—eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population—while demolishing government controls and regulations, sending production to the global south, privatizing public services and destroying labor unions does not distribute wealth. Allowing global speculators to use money lent to them by the government at virtually zero percent interest to buy back their stock does not distribute wealth. Permitting corporations to engage in structured asset destruction through inflation, to strip assets through mergers and acquisitions, to raise the levels of debt incumbency to enforce debt peonage on the public, to engage in corporate fraud that includes the dispossession of assets, does not distribute wealth. The raiding of pension funds, credit and stock manipulations and looting the U.S. Treasury when the bubbles and Ponzi schemes evaporate does not distribute wealth. Such actions funnel wealth to those at the top. They create enormous income inequality and monopoly power. They fuel discontent and political extremism. They make the planet uninhabitable for most species. They destroy democracy.

But economic rationality was never the point. The point was the restoration of class power. Neoliberalism transforms freedom for the many into freedom for the few. The idiocy of the intellectual gurus who sold us this ideology—Milton FriedmanFriedrich Hayek and Ayn Rand—should have exposed the con from the beginning, but they were given ample platforms, while their critics, the old Keynesians, were pushed out and silenced. Freedom became equated with freedom of market forces to do anything the capitalists wanted. And that freedom doomed us and looks set to doom the ecosystem on which we depend for life. Karl Marx in volume one of “Capital” explained over a century ago how freedom of the market always results in social inequality.

The loss of credibility of the reigning ideology has led the ruling elites to forge an alliance with right-wing, neofascist demagogues such as Trump and Johnson who employ the tropes of racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, bigotry and misogyny to channel the public’s growing rage and frustration away from the corporate elites and toward the vulnerable. These demagogues accelerate the pillage. They accelerate the hatred, racism and violence that act as a diversion. And they accelerate the social unrest that becomes the excuse for the imposition of tyranny. Hope lies in the streets. Millions of people in Hong Kong, India, Chile, France, Iran, Iraq and Lebanon understand. It is time to join them.

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‘We Need Total System Change’: A Letter from Santiago, Chile

Without mass grassroots awareness and collective action, without a political revolution—the billionaires and corporations will destroy us all.

by: Ronnie Cummins

The time to act, to educate, to build stronger movements, to scale up our best practices, to gain political power, is now. (Photo: Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)

The time to act, to educate, to build stronger movements, to scale up our best practices, to gain political power, is now. (Photo: Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)

Defying the machinations of discredited President Sebastian Pinera—who abruptly cancelled the Global Climate Summit in Santiago, Chile in reaction to the nationwide grassroots uprising that erupted here on October 18—an intrepid band of North and South American farmers, food activists and climate campaigners, under the banner of Regeneration International, came together in the Chilean capital of Santiago to share experiences and ideas, and to develop a common strategy for reversing global warming and resolving the other burning issues that are pressing down on us.

With global attention focused on Madrid, which hosted the December 2-13 official COP 25 Climate Summit after Chile pulled out, a number of us decided nevertheless to hold our own North and South America mini-summit here, expressing our solidarity with the Chilean people’s epic struggle, and, at the same time, giving some of the best practitioners and campaigners in the Regeneration Movement the opportunity to focus on what’s holding us back and how we can most quickly move forward.

More and more people in Madrid this week, and all over the world, are finally talking about how regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration can sequester large amounts of excess atmospheric carbon in soils, trees and plants, while providing other valuable ecological, public health, and economic benefits.

Yet overall progress is still too slow. We need total system change, and a Regenerative Revolution—now—if we hope to turn things around in time.

Accelerating public awareness and movement-building

Public awareness of how photosynthesis works, of what agroecology and agroforestry mean, of how healthy plants and trees and properly grazed livestock draw down and sequester significant amounts of carbon in the soil, of how Big Food and Big Ag’s chemical and fossil fuel-intensive food system is a major factor driving global warming and poverty, is still in the early stages—as is public awareness of the multiple benefits of regenerative food, farming and land use.

Most climate activists are still focused narrowly on reducing fossil fuel use. They are still ignoring the fact that it will take both a rapid conversion to renewable energy and a massive drawdown of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (especially here in the Global South) if we are to achieve net zero emissions by 2030.

Most climate activists are still focused narrowly on reducing fossil fuel use. They are still ignoring the fact that it will take both a rapid conversion to renewable energy and a massive drawdown of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (especially here in the Global South) if we are to achieve net zero emissions by 2030, (and net negative emissions from 2030-2050) as called for by the Sunrise Movement and Bernie Sanders in the U.S., and by various national and international coalitions for a Green New Deal.

But in order to gain critical mass, political power and sufficient resources—North and South—we have no choice but to move beyond single-issue campaigns and minor reforms to building a qualitatively stronger and more diverse Movement. To head off catastrophe and bring the world’s corporate criminals and fascist politicians to heel, we must unite all the different currents of our local-to-global resistance. We must create a world-changing synergy between our myriad demands and constituencies for economic justice, social equity and renewable energy and our demands for radical and regenerative transformations in our food, farming, forestry and land-use policies.

Gaining political power

Unfortunately, many organic and agro-ecological farmers, food and consumer organizations, and anti-GMO and anti-factory farm activists are still either apolitical, or afraid of being called “radical.”

For example, too many organic consumers and farmers in the U.S. are still questioning why they should support revolutionary change, such as a multi-trillion-dollar Green New Deal, or a radical presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders, who is calling for political revolution (eco-social justice, universal health care, and free public education), as well as renewable energy and a new food system based upon organic regenerative practices.

What many of our well-meaning but often naïve, timid or overly pessimistic compatriots fail to understand is that without a radical shift in political power and public policies, including finance policies—facilitating a massive infusion of public money and private investments—our growing organic and regeneration revolution will likely shrivel up and die on the vine. And of course such a dramatic cultural and political transformation will be possible only with the massive participation and leadership of youth, women, African-Americans, Latinos and workers, carrying out a Ballot Box Revolution that includes, but is not limited to, our life-or-death food, farming and climate imperatives.

Ten to 25 percent market share for organic and local food and grass-fed meat and animal products by 2030 is better than what we have now, but it’s not going to make much difference on a burnt planet. Our planetary house, as Greta Thunberg reminded us once again this week in Madrid, is on fire.

Without mass grassroots awareness and collective action, without a political revolution, as well as an energy and farming revolution and a massive influx of funds, public and private, the business-as-usual machinations of the billionaires, the multinational corporations (Bayer/Monsanto, Cargill, JBS, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Facebook, Google et al) and the one percent will drive us past the point of no return and destroy us all.

In order to replicate and scale up the game-changing, carbon-sequestering regenerative food, farming and ecosystem restoration practices that are finally taking root and spreading across the Americas and the planet—these include bio-intensive organic, agroecology, holistic grazing, agroforestry, permaculture, reforestation and biochar—we need all of the major drivers of regeneration to be operating in synergy and at full power.

As we affirmed in our Regeneration International General Assembly meeting on December 10 in Santiago:

Given the unprecedented and accelerating global-scale climate emergency that is upon us, global governments and civil society must rapidly prioritize, invest in, and scale up the following:

  • Public education on climate and regeneration and a sharp focus on grassroots movement-building
  • Rapid expansion of existing regenerative agriculture practices that promote ecosystem restoration, carbon-capture in soils, and food security
  • Reorientation of public policies to support regenerative agricultural practices and ecosystem restoration
  • Reorientation of economic priorities to facilitate a massive increase in public and private investment in regenerative practices…”

Despite the continuing bad news on the climate front, and the rise of authoritarian and fascist regimes in South America and across the world, our counterparts here in Santiago have been very happy to hear about some of the recent positive developments in North America, including the growing support for a Green New Deal and the campaign of Bernie Sanders for president, as well as the growth of radical, youth-led, direct action groups such as the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for the Future.

In the short span of 12 months, the Green New Deal Resolution in the U.S. has gained massive support from disenfranchised youth, minority communities, embattled working class constituencies, the food movement and climate activists. The resolution, according to a number of polls, now has the support of more than 60 percent of the population, despite increasingly frantic opposition by Trump, the corporate mass media and the neo-liberal wing of the Democratic Party, represented by Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and billionaires like Michael Bloomberg.

The growing understanding that we need “System Change,” i.e. a political revolution, in the U.S. if we are to stop climate change and resolve our other burning crises, is echoed in the call for a “Fourth Transformation” in Mexico, in the growing movement for the overthrow of the climate-denying, Amazon-burning, fascist Bolsonaro junta in Brazil (ditto Bolivia, Honduras, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, et al), and now the thunderous demand from all sectors of the population for a New Constitution and a democratic revolution in Chile.

Taking it to the streets

Marching and chanting with our Chilean brothers and sisters along riot-scarred streets in central Santiago, past an astonishing number of smashed-up billboards, burnt-out subway stations, battered storefronts, broken traffic lights, boarded-up banks, hotels and businesses, it’s clear that elite control and “business as usual,” at least here in Chile, is no longer tolerable. Along the major thoroughfares such as Avenida Providencia, neighborhood or family-owned businesses, “somos pyme” have generally been spared, while colonial monuments, government buildings, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Oxxo, Domino’s Pizza the Crown Plaza Hotel, and other symbols of multinational control and consumerism have been spray painted, smashed and vandalized.

Supposedly prosperous Chile—the Latin America “free market” jewel of U.S. foreign policy (where President Nixon, Kissinger, AT&T and the CIA overthrew the democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973)—today has the surreal feeling of a post-modern dystopia. Block after block, mile after mile, with anti-government youth directing traffic at many of the intersections, every wall of the central city is covered with messages of resistance and solidarity, including heartbreaking photos of young protesters (my son’s age) murdered, blinded (the Carbineri have reportedly been deliberately shooting rubber bullets into the eyes of protestors) and imprisoned.

Chile’s workers, indigenous Mapuches, farmers and the once-middle class, led by youth and students, are rising up against the one percent, despite tremendous repression.

Meanwhile the glaciers that supply much of Chile’s water and agriculture are melting. Record-breaking temperatures, forest fires and drought are spreading here and throughout Latin America. Last Sunday, just as thousands of young protestors on bicycles converged on President Pineda’s mansion calling for his resignation and a new Constitution, a massive wildfire broke out on one of the seriously deforested and parched mountains surrounding the city. The scene reminded me of what’s happening in California, and even now in the Boreal forests of Canada and Alaska.

Our collective house, our politics and our climate, are all on fire. As India activist Arundhati Roy said:

“It is becoming more and more difficult to communicate the scale of the crisis even to ourselves. An accurate description runs the risk of sounding like hyperbole…

The hour is late. The crisis is dire. But as those of us in the Regeneration Movement understand, heart and mind, we’ve still got time to turn things around. But the time to act, to educate, to build stronger movements, to scale up our best practices, to gain political power, is now.

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Chile Despertó! Chile Has Woken Up! The Rising Fight Against Neo-Liberalism in Chile

Today in Chile the working class and oppressed people are under brutal attack, economically, politically and socially, by the Sebastian Piñera government and imperialist exploitation.

by: Alison Bodine

Despite the severe repression, on October 25, 2019, 1.2 million people marched in Santiago, representing diverse sectors of Chilean society including social movements, Indigenous people, women, retired people, unions, students and more. (Photo:  Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite the severe repression, on October 25, 2019, 1.2 million people marched in Santiago, representing diverse sectors of Chilean society including social movements, Indigenous people, women, retired people, unions, students and more. (Photo:  Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images)

¡Chile despertó!

¡Piñera, renuncia!

¡Piñera ya fue!

¡Que se vayan los milicos!

Chile Has Woken Up!

Piñera Resign!

Piñera Has Gone!

Let the “Milicos” leave! (“Milicos” is a derogatory

word for police and military personnel)

These are some the powerful chants that have echoed throughout the streets of cities small and large in Chile during mass protests that began in October 2019. Poor, working and oppressed people and students have united to demand dignity and human rights – in one word, an end to neo-liberalism in Chile.

This movement began following the October 6 announcement by the government of Chile that there would be a 30-peso transit system fare hike. This increase, which amounts to about $0.04 USD, was enough added pressure to an already tight household budget for many Chileans to bring millions of people out into the streets.

“It’s not about the 30 pesos. It’s about 30 years”

For the first two weeks, protests were organized by high school students who called on people to refuse to pay transit fares. By October 18 the President of Chile, Sebastián Piñera had not responded to the students’ demands – and instead declared a State of Emergency and deployed the military and riot police to attack the students.

Despite the extreme repression and curfew, people in Chile continued to demonstrate. Then, on October 21, President Piñera, extended the State of Emergency, declaring, “We are at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without any limits.” With these words, Piñera displayed outright contempt for the people of Chile, and his true colours as an ally of the U.S. and staunch supporter of neo-liberalism in Chile at the same time. By then, protests which had largely been contained to the capital city of Santiago, spread to other cities. At least 10,500 police and soldiers had been deployed by October 21 (BBC).

Protests against the government and neoliberalism have continued to grow and spread throughout the country and into the most oppressed sectors of society. The Indigenous Mapuche people of Chile, who make up about 10% of the population, have also organized and led protests demanding their self-determination and land rights.

Despite the severe repression, on October 25, 2019, 1.2 million people marched in Santiago, representing diverse sectors of Chilean society including social movements, Indigenous people, women, retired people, unions, students and more. The protests have continued since then, and the repression and cruelty of the Piñera government and his military and police goons has reached a severity not seen in Chile since the bloody Pinochet dictatorship ended over 30 years ago.

As reported by the National Institute of Human Rights (Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos – INDH), a nongovernmental organization in Chile, at least 177 people have faced severe eye injuries or lost their vision after being deliberately hit in the face by tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets. The same organization has also investigated possible torture sites, and documented cases of un-uniformed police or military throwing people into car trunks and vans. As of October 30, 2019, at least 19 people have been killed and over 1,200 people have been wounded. INDH has also filed 18 cases of sexual violence, including rape, and 92 cases of torture, against police and soldiers.

Why are People in Chile Protesting?

So, how is it that in the face of so much violence, people in Chile have continued their mass protests? What started with a transit fare increase has led to a revolt against Chile’s neoliberal government and institutions – and even demands to change the constitution. As Alan Vicencio, a 25-year-old call-center worker told Time Magazine, “The whole constitution makes me angry, the constitution allowed the privatization of every aspect of our lives and it’s being doing it for more than 30 years.”

Often hailed as “business friendly” and the prime example of the “success” of a free market system, Chile is the most unequal of the 36 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In 2017, the United Nations released a report “Unequal. Origins, changes and challenges in Chile’s social divide,” which explained how the richest 0.1% of the people in Chile control 19.5% of the wealth.

Privatization runs rampant in Chile through all sectors of life including water, roads, energy, healthcare and the pension system. Although some education is public, there is a great divide between the public and private school systems.

Behind the repression in Chile is the support of the United States, but also the support of many of their imperialist allies, including the government of Canada.

The minimum wage in Chile is not enough for a dignified life – especially as everything is privatized, making everyday life in Chile very expensive. For example, if someone in Chile made minimum wage the cost of transit to and from work would eat up 21% of their paycheque (NACLA.org).

Protestors in Chile are fighting for their dignity. They are fighting against inequality. They are fighting against police and military brutality. These are all symptoms of neoliberalism, which is the economic policy expression of the agenda of imperialism around the world.

One only must look towards to the United States’ relationship with the government of Chile to understand just how Chile has become such a good ally to the U.S. With regard to the violence against protestors, the White House stated that,” The United States stands with Chile, an important ally, as it works to peacefully restore national order,” and “President Trump denounced foreign efforts to undermine Chilean institutions, democracy, or society.”

More broadly, as President Trump put it in a press conference a year ago, “There are so many issues that we have to discuss because Chile and the United States are likeminded countries. We share the most important things, which are values—democracy, human rights, freedom. But Chile is really something special. If you look at what they’ve done, how far they’ve come. You look at how well run the country is.” This is what is sounds like when a government in Latin America is following the orders of the U.S. government and their financial institutions.

Clearly, behind the repression in Chile is the support of the United States, but also the support of many of their imperialist allies, including the government of Canada. In fact, Prime Minister Trudeau had a phone call with Piñera in the midst of severe police and military repression and didn’t say one word to him – as reported by CTV News, “A summary from the Prime Minister’s Office of Trudeau’s phone call with Pinera made no direct mention of the ongoing turmoil in Chile, a thriving country with which Canada has negotiated a free trade agreement.”

This is no surprise given that, as reported by the government of Canada, 14% of Canada’s mining assets are in Chile including copper, gold and silver mines. This includes Barrick Gold, which had to shut down a $429 million gold mine earlier this year due to severe human rights and environmental violations.

Both the governments of the U.S. and Canada also want to hold up the repressive Piñera government because having a neo-liberal “success story” and a staunch ally in Chile serves them well in their drive to re-establish imperialist hegemony in Latin America. Having a U.S.-supported government in Chile puts imperialists in a better position for their continued attacks against the sovereign and independent countries of Cuba and Venezuela.

Chile—Target of Imperialist Aggression and Exploitation

The modern history of Chile is a history of colonization, imperialist domination and exploitation. Although Chile won independence from Spain in 1818, it wasn’t until 150 years later that the people of Chile had the opportunity to be truly independent from colonial and imperialist rule. In 1970, the people of Chile chose to reverse their history of colonization and exploitation, and elected Salvador Allende, who had a progressive and popular agenda to improve the life and oppose imperialist exploitation of Chile.

However, only three years after his election, in 1973, the United States and their imperialist allies orchestrated a bloody coup d’état, murdering Allende and installing a bloody military dictatorship. In just the first 5 years of his brutal rule, the U.S-backed dictatorship of General Agosto Pinochet imprisoned and tortured at least 30,000 people and disappeared 3,000 people. A constitution written under the dictatorship, which is the same one that enshrines privatization, is still in place in Chile today.

Reviewing the modern history of Chile also helps to explain the continued determination of the people of Chile to continuing protesting in mass in the streets until their demands are met. Despite some concessions that Piñera has been forced to give, such as the increases to monthly pensions or the minimum wage, a cabinet shuffle, or agreeing not to raise the transit fare, people are not leaving the streets.

As, Vilma Alvarez, a leader of the Jumbo Union (Jumbo is a chain of grocery stores in Chile) explained in an interview with the Argentinian news agency Pagina 12, the concessions that Pinera has offered to the protesters are not enough. They are, “another way to continue transferring money to the financial sectors and not giving any relief to the population,” and “The demand is for Piñera to resign and for a Constituent Assembly to be held.” The people of Chile have had enough.

Building Solidarity with the People of Chile

Why should working and oppressed people in Canada support the struggle of people in Chile? For one, the people of Chile are facing a criminal and violent repression of their basic human rights. They are being arrested, tortured, raped and killed because they have taken to the streets in the millions to oppose inequality and austerity and to struggle for their basic dignity.

As Isabel Sanchez stated to Aljazeera news on October 26, “We are of the generation that began our lives in the dictatorship, and we had no youth. We lost friends; we saw people slaughtered. We lived with fear, but now the young people have blossomed, they have lost that fear.” It is time also for us, as poor, working and oppressed people in Canada and the United States to recognize the courage and struggle of the people of Chile, stand with them, and echo their voices.

Also, as people living in the United States and Canada, we have the added responsibility to stand in solidarity with the people of Chile because the governments of Canada and the U.S. are supporting the brutality and repression of the Piñera government.

Chile Diaspora Supports the Struggle

In the U.S. and Canada, members of the Chilean community and their allies have also taken to the streets to call for human rights for people in Chile and denounce the indiscriminate violence waged against protestors by the Piñera government. There have been solidarity protests organized in major cities across the United States, and in Canada, including in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Victoria. These solidarity actions have not only brought together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, but also many generations of Chileans – from those that fled during the Pinochet dictatorship, to young people from Chile who are in the Canada and the U.S. to study.

In Vancouver, the Chilean diaspora has come together with others living in Canada in a new group named Van4Chile. Van4Chile has organized protests and public demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Chile, including an energetic protest in front of the CBC in downtown Vancouver on November 2, 2019. At this action, more than 200 people, from all walks of life, came together to demand that the CBC cover the protests in Chile. They also called out the government of Canada’s complicity in the repression of people’s human and democratic rights in Chile. To get involved and follow the work of Van4Chile find them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Van4Chile.

Don’t Boycott Chile

It is also important to say that within the movement in solidarity with the people of Chile, there has been calls for a boycott against Chilean wine or other products produced in Chile. While this call for boycott may have been made with good intentions, the most important action that we, as peace-loving people in Canada and the U.S. can take for the courageous people of Chile is not to boycott them, but to support them. Perhaps, we must think more critically about what boycotting Chilean wine will do for people in Chile.

Today in Chile the working class and oppressed people are under brutal attack, economically, politically and socially, by the Sebastian Piñera government and imperialist exploitation. So, it is possible that a boycott that targets Chile’s economy has the potential to damage their movement and to reinforce the austerity which they are already living under. Any damage to the economy of Chile will surely be passed on from Chile’s richest families and capitalist class (they have billion dollars to survive) to poor and working people in Chile, increasing the austerity, pressure and inequality that they face. And Chile is not only a wine producer! Do we want also to boycott the mining, metal, mineral companies whose products amount to 60%, or $40 billion, of all of Chile’s exports, making up 20 percent of Chile’s GDP? The wine industry exports only $2 billion of the $70-77 billion of total exports from Chile.

That being said, do we really want the wine industry in Chile go bankrupt? Who is benefiting from that? Working people? Of course not. Do we want workers and people who work in wine industry to lose their jobs, or do we want to help the capitalist class to find excuses to lay-off workers and impose downsizing and overtime? Aren’t these the very policies of neoliberalism that Chilean people, and we, are opposing? Isn’t this shooting ourselves in the foot?

Furthermore, it is also important to consider the alternative—if people around the world are asked to boycott Chilean wine because the government of Chile is reactionary—is drinking wine from the U.S., Canada, France, Spain, England, Australia, Italy, or Germany, who are responsible for the slaughter of tens of millions of people around the world (including Chile’s coup September 11,1973), really any better? The difference is that Chile is an oppressed country, a third-world country. Chile is not an imperialist country with vast finances and industrial resources. Chile as a country struggles within the world market which is overwhelmingly dominated by imperialist countries and their corporations (including wine companies).

Applying any given tactic to any struggle could be very damaging to the struggle itself if it is not well thought out. In the history of the struggle for a better world, a boycott movement has never been the most effective way to build solidarity. The only effective boycott movement was one that was demanded by the people within the country being boycotted, and this was the successful boycott movement against apartheid South Africa.

If we can take all the energy that could go into a boycott, and instead use it to raise sympathy and solidarity with Chilean people in Canada and the U.S. through street actions, petitioning, educational events, and more, our impact will be much greater.

As poor, working and oppressed people in Canada/U.S., and around the world we must raise the question of human rights, torture, rape, execution, repression and yes, neoliberalism and austerity measures in Chile. We need to expose the atrocities of Piñera, and the complicity of governments like the U.S. and Canada in this brutality.

Sebastian Piñera must go!

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Welcome to Chile: One of Latin America’s Most Unequal Countries

The current Constitution illustrates a time when Pinochet along with President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger forced upon Chile economic policies that would consolidate an export-driven economy owned by foreign multi-nationals.

by: Shahid Mahmood

Aerial view as demonstrators march during a national strike and general demonstration called by different workers unions on November 12, 2019 in Santiago, Chile. On Sunday, Government announced it has agreed to start the process to write a new Constitution for the country, which is one of the most repeated demands by the demonstrators since October 18. (Photo by Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)

Aerial view as demonstrators march during a national strike and general demonstration called by different workers unions on November 12, 2019 in Santiago, Chile. On Sunday, Government announced it has agreed to start the process to write a new Constitution for the country, which is one of the most repeated demands by the demonstrators since October 18. (Photo: Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images)

Following 9-11 many editorial cartoonists, myself included, tried to make sense of the tragic events. My work criticized US foreign policy and the ensuing, heavy-handed military interventionism that followed. As a result, I was denied boarding a domestic Air Canada flight in 2004. I also began to receive extra screening on a routine basis by airlines in many countries. One of these screenings happened on a trip to Chile with my family. Upon landing in Santiago, at passport control, we handed over our travel documents. An immigration officer flipped-through, scanning our passports—and nosily stamped, seemingly random pages. She stopped at mine and asked me why we were visiting Chile. I told her we were making a routine trip to visit my wife’s family and that she could double-check my passport to verify. She stared at me and asked me to wait. Another immigration officer showed up and started flipping through my passport. There was the crackle of walkie-talkies and two uniformed men showed up. They identified themselves in Spanish as Interpol officers and grabbed my passport, cell phone and ordered me to follow them. My three-year-old son asked my wife, “where is Baba being taken?” I was taken to the back of the terminal to a secure zone, body searched and then asked to wait—locked in a tiny 6ft-by-6ft cubicle. After about 90-minutes, I was taken to larger room. A man dressed in crisp military attire, sitting at a desk, was holding my passport and cell phone. He asked me in stilted but flawless English why I was visiting Chile. He deliberated over my responses before handing me my passport. He made a point of gripping my passport firmly, not immediately releasing it and saying, “Welcome to Chile.”

The belief that free markets lead to prosperity, and prosperity will trickle down to the masses has been debunked worldwide.

The airport officials I interacted with exemplify the racial and cultural divide that exists in Chile. Opportunities are based on class and privilege. At the airport lower-ranking officials were Spanish-speaking Chileans who aspirate their “s’s” while the ranking military officer was giving orders in enunciated, US east-coast English. Inequality is deeply engrained in the country. Chile’s Spanish-speaking middle class is crippled by high prices, low wages, and a privatized health-care. Education which was touted to help Chileans attain a higher standard of life has, instead, become a debilitating anchor of debt. Meanwhile, the country’s political and corporate elite are profiteering from decades of economic growth leveraging a Constitution that prevents labor and tax reforms. As a result, Chile remains one of Latin America’s most unequitable countries within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The belief that free markets lead to prosperity, and prosperity will trickle down to the masses has been debunked worldwide. Chileans are protesting against these inequalities resulting in a government crackdown in which scores of people have been killed by the police and military. Businesses have suffered billions of dollars in damages and Santiago’s public transport system has been rendered inoperative due to arson, vandalism and pillaging. Thousands of protesters are chanting, “Chile has woken,” in demonstrations across the country.

Chile’s ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet is incriminated with many human right violations carried out under his 1973-1990 junta. I personally know many who were senselessly incarcerated. But Chile, as with many Latin American countries, transitioned into democracy without ever trying these former authoritarian elites. They were never excluded from positions of power. Many laws established by Pinochet remain operative—currently used against the Mapuche indigenous people, protestors and activists. This is done in the name of securing natural resources, protecting foreign loans and maintaining good international credit rating. 

The current Chilean President, Sebastian Pinera, has agreed to draft a new constitution—a central demand made by the protesters. Should this happen, the new Constitution would replace the current one. The current Constitution illustrates a time when Pinochet along with President Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger forced upon Chile economic policies that would consolidate an export-driven economy owned by foreign multi-nationals. A new Constitution, on the other hand, is hoped to become an updated social contract protecting the fundamental civic rights of Chileans—wresting Pinochet’s 30-year old grip from the country. Strong governments are not about military prowess or efficient intelligence apparatuses. Instead, governments should be about, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “the care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction.”

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‘A Victory for the Whole Country’: Chile to Hold Referendum on Rewriting Constitution

“We are here thanks to many Chileans that have risked their lives to make Chile a fairer country.”

by: Eoin Higgins,

Chileans in the country's streets marked a victory on Friday as the government agreed to hold a referendum on replacing the dictatorship-era constitution.

Chileans in the country’s streets marked a victory on Friday as the government agreed to hold a referendum on replacing the dictatorship-era constitution. (Photo:  Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images)

The Chilean government on Friday officially began the processs of writing a new constitution for the country by approving a popular referendum, a bow to the demands of the nationwide protest movement that began in Santiago on October 15. 

The referendum will ask the country to weigh in on whether the old constitution, a relic of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, should be replaced. Voters will also have the opportunity to determine how the new document is drafted. 

“This is a victory for the whole country,” Senate president Jamie Quintana, a frequent critic of Chilean President Sebastien Piñera, said in a press conference early Friday. “We offer for the first time a constitution that is 100% democratic.”

Quintana called the proposal the beginning of a “building of a true social contract” and hoped that the process would mark the end of violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces that have seen at least 20 people dead. 

Jaime Quintana@senadorquintana

Hoy es un día histórico para Chile. Desde hace tres décadas se ha intentado muchas veces cambiar la constitución. Hoy la ciudadanía lo ha hecho posible. Esta es una victoria de todo el país.

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View image on Twitter

1856:10 AM – Nov 15, 2019

Friday’s announcement marks a formalization of a government declaration Monday that the constitution would be rewritten, though no timeline was given then. 

In comments to Bloomberg, lawmaker Gabriel Boric of the left-leaning Frente Amplio praised the protest movement and held up the constitution announcement as a success for the people of Chile.

“We are here thanks to many Chileans that have risked their lives to make Chile a fairer country,” said Boric. “Political forces have reached agreements that seemed impossible just a few days ago.”

As Common Dreams reported, protests began in October, sparked by a youth movement rejecting an increase in subway fares in the capital Santiago. The unrest has continued in the face of brutal state oppression as Chileans have stood fast for political change.

On Friday, they got their wish.

“Now is the time to respond to citizens and do everything possible to build a better, fairer Chile,” said center-left Partido Por la Democracia leader Heraldo Muñoz. “This fundamental charter needs to represent all of us.”

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