Despite President Piñera's social turn, the main Chilean labor and student organizations are calling for a general strike on Wednesday and Thursday condemning the deployment of the armed forces.
"Long live the strike! We say it loud and clear: enough price increases and abuses! "tweeted Tuesday evening the Unitary Workers' Central (CUT), the main trade union confederation of Chile. Twenty other workers 'and students' organizations are calling Wednesday, October 23 and Thursday, October 24, despite the measures proposed by President Sebastian Piñera, for a general strike that threatens to fuel the violent social crisis that has killed 15 people for six days. They condemn the presidential decision to impose a state of emergency on most of the country, to resort to a curfew and to involve the armed forces. Some 20,000 military and police officers have been deployed.
Chile has known since Friday its worst violence for some thirty years, linked to an explosion of social anger. Demonstrations and looting left fifteen dead, including a Peruvian and an Ecuadorian. Nine of the country's sixteen regions are under state of emergency. "We call on the government to restore the democratic institutional order, which means in the first place the abandonment of the state of emergency and the return of the military to their barracks", say these movements in a statement released Tuesday. This is the first time that soldiers have been patrolling the streets since the end of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
In Santiago, the protest will leave Plaza Italia, in the heart of the capital, where hundreds of thousands of Chileans have been demonstrating since Friday. The powerful copper mining unions – of which Chile is the world's largest producer – as well as workers in the health sector and ports have joined the movement.
Major social movement
The announcement of a 3.75% increase in the price of the metro ticket, suspended since then, sparked the first demonstrations, which then became a major social movement fueled by anger at the socio-economic situation and inequalities. In this country of eighteen million people praised for its economic and political stability, access to health and education is almost entirely the private sector.
The conservative president, Sebastian Piñera, took a social turn Tuesday, after a meeting with the political forces of the country to which the Socialist Party, main opposition party, refused to participate as well as other parties of the Frente Amplio ("Broad Front", left) and the radical left. Mr Piñera proposed measures such as the 20% increase in the minimum pension and the freezing of electricity tariffs or an increase in the minimum wage. He also proposed a reduction in the salaries of parliamentarians and senior civil servants, coupled with the decline in the number of parliamentarians and a reduction in the number of their successive terms.
Recognizing that he did not anticipate the social explosion, he asked " sorry " to his compatriots. A dramatic change of tone on the part of the one who considered Sunday Chile as "At war with a powerful enemy". But trade unionists demand of the government a social agenda prepared jointly to serve as a basis for a final exit from the crisis.
Santiago and dozens of other cities spent their fourth night under a state of emergency. Hundreds of Chileans living in other countries, such as Argentina, France or Spain, have organized demonstrations to support the Chilean movement. According to a report from the National Institute of Human Rights (NHRI), five people died in clashes with police, 269 were injured, 137 by firearms and about 1,900 were arrested. The other dead people died during fires and looting, according to the authorities.