On Feb. 23, anti-government protests recently used the most popular music festival in the country, Vina del Mar, to protest the current state of the country which lead to a group of about 150 masked protesters setting fire to around seven cars in front of the O’Higgins hotel on Sunday.
This then led police to instill water cannons, harming protesters and forcing the hotels to temporarily evacuate the premises. This incident was one of two major protests Monday where the second had thousands of protestors surrounding the premises to protest the country’s economic status amongst its citizens. The protest then turned violent, with damages towards local businesses and hotels and the vandalization of vehicles all being accounted for by first-hand accounts.
The protests initially started back in October 2019 due to the government in Santiago, the nation’s capital, raising subway fares. This sparked major unrest which then shined light towards other major issues concerning the rising prices for healthcare, education and other utilities. Meanwhile, Chilean’s low wages remained the same causing pension payouts to remain incredibly low, furthering the gap of wealth among the Chilean population.
The response from the president of Chile, Sebastion Pinera, was the removal of the fare hike, putting the capital under curfew and having the Chilean military put in charge of the city’s security. This has led to a death count of 31 people and thousands upon thousands of protestors arrested.
The governor of Valparaíso region, Jorge Martinez, blamed the violence that took place around the music festival on “radical groups which are very much in the minority. They want anarchy, they want disorder and violence,” Martínez continued. The actual mayor of Viña del Mar, Virginia Reginato, also denounced the incidents, claiming, “You can have demonstrations but this is criminal and will be treated as such.”
The goal of the protest is for the people of Chile to be heard and for that recognition be shown by the changing of the constitution and for the wealth gap to be fixed. Local Kamloops resident, Randi Dougan, who had been born and raised in Chile and had moved to Canada, agreed with the changes desired by the protestors.
“If I were still in Chile, working what I am now, what I’d make in two weeks, I’d barely in a month there. How most Chileans live is much worse compared to how the few rich people live in the country and need to be addressed. Or else the country will turn back into resembling the dictatorship that was run by Pinochet,” Dougan said.
When asked what should happen going forward for the people of Chile, Dougan spoke modestly, responding, “That’s a big question for just me to answer. I know that change should happen, but what that change should look like? I don’t know.”