In Chile, the coronavirus highlights the inequalities denounced by the social movement

The Plaza de Armas, in Santiago, March 27.
The Plaza de Armas, in Santiago, March 27. MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP

March was to mark the return of protesters to the streets of the capital, Santiago, after an southern summer during which the mobilization against social inequalities in Chile, started in late October 2019, had logically weakened. But with the end of the school holidays, the first cases of coronavirus also arrived in the country, imported by foreign tourists and Chileans who traveled to Europe and Asia.

Plaza Italia, where demonstrations were held every Friday, has gradually emptied; the April 26 referendum on drafting a new constitution to replace the one dating from Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship was postponed until October. "The mobilization is in fact interrupted by the coronavirus, says Carlos Ruiz Encina, sociologist and president of the think tank Nodo XXI, close to the left-wing coalition Frente Amplio. For a society which has recently been confronted with the problem of violence and deaths caused by police repression, the coronavirus embodies additional suffering. "

As of Friday, March 27, Chile had 1,610 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including five fatal. Right-wing President Sebastian Piñera has ordered compulsory confinement of at least one week, starting on Thursday 26, for seven municipalities in the metropolitan region of Santiago. "Since the municipalities of Santiago are glued to each other, I do not understand why containment has not been decided for the entire metropolitan region, deplores José Miguel Bernucci, national secretary of the Colegio Médico, the main doctors' union, which has been demanding since mid-March the containment of the entire region. These measures are late. If they had been taken earlier, we could have quickly smoothed out the curve of new cases. "

Copper prices collapse

"Welcome to Chile, where the economy is worth more than people's lives. " On social networks, messages of this caliber have been multiplying in recent days: many Chileans are indignant at the lack of responsiveness of the government, which adopts a policy of small steps, so as not to further affect a shattered economy by the impact of the social movement on certain key sectors, such as commerce and tourism. As a result of the coronavirus and the collapse of copper prices, on which the Chilean economy largely depends, experts predict growth of 0.5% at most in 2020. The falls in the world stock markets in early March also caused heavy losses to private pension fund administrators (AFP) to which Chileans contribute, and significantly reduced their retirement capital.


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