November 24, 2020

Coronavirus social crisis threatens to reignite protests in Chile



The citizen’s fight against social and economic inequality that erupted in Chile in October last year, with constant protests and episodes of violence, threatens to awaken from the lethargy in which it was plunged since the arrival of the coronavirus, now demanding help to eat.

The breeding ground for new protests is served by the more than half a million jobs that have been destroyed in the country between March and April, before the cessation of productive and economic activities by the quarantines decreed to try to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The pandemic has generated a social and economic crisis that will cause an increase in poverty that, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Chile, can go from 9.8% in 2019 to 13.7% in 2020, in the worst case scenario, and whose effects have already begun to be felt on the streets.

The first warning was given this Monday by the residents of the town of El Bosque, on the southern outskirts of Santiago, where unemployment, overcrowding and poverty lurk even more harshly in the days of COVID-19, and they took to the streets to protest against “hunger and misery”, motivating the intervention of the police and reviving scenes typical of the social outbreak last year.

“It is not against quarantine, it is against hunger,” said one of the people who demonstrated in El Bosque, at the beginning of the first week in which the entire Chilean capital is confined, after a sharp rise in the contagions, which are already at the 50,000 barrier and have caused more than 500 deaths.

The slowdown in activities has also affected informal employment, which means subsistence income for the poorest sectors, where talk of a “social pandemic” has already begun.

“Although it is true that Chile has one of the most formal labor systems in Latin America, we are talking about the fact that there are 2.6 million people with an informal job, it is a lot of people, and today, practically they Nothing has come, “said Rossana Castiglioni, an academic at the School of Political Science at the Diego Portales University in Chile.

The expert said that if people do not get food, basic products, or income, “it will be very difficult for the government to remain demobilized at home.”

GOVERNMENT AIDS, KEY TO CONTAINING PROTESTS

To alleviate the social consequences of the pandemic, the Government announced a series of aid to families whose management may be key, in Castiglioni’s opinion, so that the protests are reactivated or that kind of “non-aggression pact” that he left is maintained The mobilizations were on pause when the first cases of COVID-19 in Chile began to be diagnosed in March.

President Sebastián Piñera reported on Sunday a program to deliver 2.5 million baskets of food and cleaning products to vulnerable and middle-class needy households, and after the protests this Monday, he again intervened to ask for calm from the population and promise that these grants will reach 70% of families in the country and will begin to be delivered between the end of this week and the beginning of the next.

Along with this aid, the State will provide an economic amount of a maximum of 65,000 pesos (about $ 80) for each member of the families who receive informal income and who have seen these resources diminished because they cannot work due to the emergency. health for coronavirus.

MAYORS DO NOT DISCARD MOBILIZATIONS

The authorities of some municipalities criticized that this aid is late because their neighbors “are already starving,” as Santiago Rebolledo, mayor of La Cisterna, a town in southern Santiago, said.

“The famine began in our popular sectors, the social epidemic began, the hunger epidemic, which is the most terrible thing for the human being,” Rebolledo said on the local radio station Bío Bío.

The situation of La Cisterna or El Bosque is also typical of other sectors of the Santiago periphery, such as Puente Alto, where some community associations provide food assistance to the neighbors, and to towns in other parts of the country, such as the northern Alto Hospicio, whose mayor, Patricio Ferreira, does not rule out that there are mobilizations.

“I do not rule out that if the arrival of aid is delayed too long, there will be mobilizations here in Alto Hospicio, we hope not,” said Ferreira on the same radio station.

The ECLAC’s own executive secretary, Alicia Bárcena, said in a recent interview with Efe that if the governments’ response to the coronavirus crisis is insufficient, “the social crisis will be unleashed again” against inequality and structural gaps.

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