In Chile, middle classes stifled by over-indebtedness

Like the Santander Tapia family, the middle classes have been demonstrating for a month, denouncing the social inequalities in the background of household overindebtedness. An unprecedented crisis since the end of the dictatorship.

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Elsa Santander Tapia (4th from the left), surrounded by her son Pablo, her daughter-in-law Javiera, and her sisters, Mireya and Monica. Education, health, real estate … The family is heavily indebted and struggles to meet the expenses of the day. Diego Figueroa / Migrar Photo for M The World Magazine

The small house of Elsa Santander Tapia is surrounded by a string of others, similar, in a quiet street of Pudahuel, in the suburbs of Santiago. The international airport is a five-minute drive away, but the family does not really have the opportunity to visit it. "Our expenses are very controlled, explains Elsa, 55, sitting in her living room with yellow canary furniture. The only reason I have an Internet connection is for them, " she amuses herself, pointing to her son, Pablo, and his daughter-in-law Javiera Riquelme.

One of the most unequal countries in the OECD

The young couple – 27 years old both – share the house with Elsa to allow him to reduce his expenses and put money aside to apply for a mortgage. Elsa is still paying back his, one-third of her income as a health official (she earns 575 euros a month) goes there every month. "A few months late payment, and we risk losing the house. This system is ruthless, " She denounces.

"In Chile, everything works on credit. People go into debt incessantly, we have to do it if we want to have access to a good education and a good housing ", Javiera laments, long black hair and T-shirt matching the furniture. An activist in the Socialist Party, she mobilized herself from the beginning of the social movement that has set Chile on fire since mid-October.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Historic mobilization in Chile against inequalities

The wave of social anger, launched by the demonstrations of high school students and students against the increase – canceled since – of the metro ticket in Santiago extended to the whole society. At the same time other demands were added: access to education, health, a decent retirement … Day after day, despite a brutal repression, hundreds of thousands of Chileans took to the streets, calling for end of the inequalities and extreme privatization of public services in the country.

Today, Javiera has been in debt for twenty years to study in one of the best universities in the country, as has Pablo, a nutritionist, who works for a large international company. In Chile, one of the most unequal countries in the OECD, the university is expensive and extremely expensive – only the best students and those from the most vulnerable families can benefit from free education. In the case of Javiera and Pablo, each month of study cost nearly 400 euros. "I really wanted Pablo to study at university. In my family, no one had this chance, " explains the young man's mother.


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