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LatinNews Daily - 16 November 2020

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CHILE: Protests pile pressure on Piñera

On 13 November some 3,000 people gathered in a central square in Santiago to stage further protests to heap pressure on the Chilean government led by President Sebastián Piñera.

Analysis:

Piñera had hoped that the plebiscite on drafting a new constitution on 26 October would see the protests slacken in Chile and provide some respite for his beleaguered government, especially as the ‘apruebo’ (‘approve’) camp was victorious, but they remain unremitting.

  • Every Friday a large number of protesters meet in the capital’s Plaza Italia, the epicentre of Chile’s protests for over a year now, having been fully revived after the lockdown imposed by the Piñera administration to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).
  • The demands vary slightly but are interlinked. The principal demand on this occasion was for the release of all of the protesters involved in the social unrest that erupted in October 2019 and subsequent protests staged over the course of the last year. Piñera has refused to entertain the idea, arguing that it would set a poor precedent if those arrested for vandalism and looting, for instance, were released.
  • The demonstration resulted in yet more violent clashes with the Carabineros militarised police, who attempted to disperse the protesters with water cannon and tear gas. The Carabineros also made several arrests, which fired up protesters even more.
  • One of the key demands when the protests first flared up was for a new constitution to replace the current magna carta, which dates back to the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). But this was never likely to be a panacea for Chile’s political and social divisions in itself, not least because there will now be a hiatus before elections are held for representatives to sit on the constituent convention in April 2021 and then up to nine months while they draft the new constitution, which will then go to another plebiscite in mid-to-late 2022.

Looking Ahead: Piñera is rapidly becoming reconciled to the fact that the protests are likely to continue for the remainder of his mandate, which concludes in March 2022.