Categories: Op-Ed

The unrest you’ve heard of, but never known

How Chilean protesters are paving the way for bold political action

“The whole country just exploded,” said Mimi Shaftoe, a Canadian student currently studying abroad in Chile.

Mimi was a victim of tear-gassing while waiting for the subway after the country erupted into protest following a four-cent (USD) hike in transit fare.

On the surface, it may seem excessive to be flipping cars and burning buildings as a response to four cents — but the injustice runs far deeper than that. It’s a response to a neglected education and healthcare system, privatized water, precarious labour and political corruption and collusion. 

Why are some police prompted to use such violence?

It’s a matter of power. The cheapest form of power is fear, and the easiest way to instill fear in the hearts of the public is to make an example of someone.

Vehicles were set on fire and vandalized as an act of protest. Photo by Mimi Shaftoe.

But this act of violence was a big oopsie because instead of instilling fear, it dropped the match of rage and anger of the whole country into a tank of gas. It’s no wonder that the four-cent straw will break the camel’s back when they’ve been dropping so many anvils on it. 

When Mimi was at the metro station, there were some peaceful protests that manipulated part of the station so that commuters could walk through without paying. 

Mimi dodged the fare, which was met by cheering and applause from others in the station.

But while she was waiting at the platform, people started to rush up through the stairs, and a plume of tear gas enveloped her surroundings. 

“Everyone scrambled to get on the train when it arrived. There were kids and parents and students,” said Mimi.

“To be honest, at that point, I wasn’t that shocked about the tear gas having been used because it gets used in almost any protest in Chile, including at the end of the global climate march. I was just a little bit in disbelief that it happened to me.”

A bicycle protest as one of many demonstrations in Chile. Photo by Mimi Shaftoe.

Chileans are calling for reform in all forms — a new constitution, a higher minimum wage, pension reform, and the resignation of Sebastián Piñera, among other things.

With the protests, the value of the Peso has hit a record low of 784 Pesos to 1 USD, which the government has expressed an “unease” to.

When power or wealth is threatened, the powerful and wealthy scramble to keep it within their hands, and that’s how corrupt politicians, police and authoritative figures come to be. That’s the system that’s been working for them so far, and that is what needs to — and is about to — change.

Protesters are people who change the world. They always have been. That’s why to the complacent, sedentary rich folks with nowhere to put their money but their own self-interest, protestors are bad news. 

Hit them where it hurts, protesters — their wallets, their power-hungry egos, and their precious status quo. 

Follow Us