Chile

 

  • ‘Chile ha privatizado por completo el agua, lo cual significa que el robo está institucionalizado’

    Al cabo de un año signado por la movilización masiva en torno de la emergencia climática, CIVICUS está entrevistando a activistas, líderes y expertos de la sociedad civil acerca de los principales desafíos ambientales que enfrentan en sus respectivos contextos y las acciones que han emprendido para hacerles frente. CIVICUS conversa con Rodrigo Mundaca, ingeniero agrónomo y vocero nacional del Movimiento de Defensa por el acceso al Agua, la Tierra y la Protección del Medioambiente (MODATIMA), una organización nacida en 2010 en la provincia chilena de Petorca, región de Valparaíso, para defender los derechos de los campesinos, trabajadores y habitantes de la zona. Desde la década del noventa la región ha sido afectada por el acaparamiento de las aguas por parte del negocio agroindustrial en colusión con el establishment político.

    Rodrigo Mundaca

    ¿Cuál es el principal problema ambiental en tu contexto?

    El principal problema es el agua. Vivimos en un territorio caracterizado fundamentalmente por el monocultivo de palta o aguacate, un frutal de origen tropical cuya producción demanda enormes cantidades de agua, que está en manos de grandes productores que secaron nuestro territorio y comprometieron la vida de nuestras comunidades. El nuestro es un caso extremo: Chile ha privatizado por completo el agua, lo cual significa que el robo está institucionalizado. Claramente Chile ha priorizado a la industria extractiva por sobre el derecho al agua de las comunidades.

    La privatización de las fuentes de agua en Chile data de la dictadura de Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). La Constitución de 1980 consagró la propiedad privada del agua. Esto se mantuvo, e incluso se profundizó, después de la transición democrática, ya que también se privatizó el saneamiento. El proceso de privatización de las sanitarias se inició el año 1998, durante el gobierno del democristiano Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle. Hoy día Chile paga las tarifas más altas de América Latina para consumir agua potable, que es de propiedad de grandes empresas transnacionales. En rigor, el grupo Suez, Aguas de Barcelona, Marubeni y la administradora de fondos de pensiones de los profesores de Ontario (Canadá) controlan el 90% del suministro de agua potable.

    Ahora mismo el gobierno de Sebastián Piñera está rematando ríos. Piñera llegó al gobierno con el proyecto de apuntalar la certeza jurídica de la propiedad de los derechos de agua, y en su gabinete hay varios ministros con derechos de aprovechamiento de aguas constituidos, liderados por el ministro de Agricultura, Antonio Walker Prieto. Este ministro y su familia son propietarios de más de 29.000 litros por segundo, lo cual equivale al suministro continuo de agua de aproximadamente 17 millones de personas.

    ¿Cómo es eso de que alguien es dueño de los ríos y puede impedir que otros hagan uso de las aguas?

    La Constitución chilena de 1980 establece literalmente que los derechos de los particulares sobre las aguas, reconocidos o constituidos en conformidad a la ley, otorgan a sus titulares la propiedad sobre ella. En 1981, el Código de Aguas estableció que el agua es un bien nacional de uso público pero también un bien económico. La propiedad del agua se separó del dominio de la tierra, de modo que hay propietarios de agua que no tienen tierra y propietarios de tierra que no tienen agua. Es prerrogativa del Estado conceder derechos de aprovechamiento del agua. Estos derechos se dividen en dos categorías: derechos sobre agua para uso de consumo y derechos sobre agua para uso no consuntivo, por ejemplo para la generación de electricidad. En la primera categoría, el 77% de los derechos está en manos del sector agrícola y forestal, el 13% en el sector minero, el 7% en el sector industrial y aproximadamente 3% en el sector sanitario. En cuanto a los derechos de aprovechamiento del agua para uso no consuntivo, el 81% está en manos de una empresa público-privada italiana. Los portadores de derechos de aprovechamiento pueden vender o arrendar agua en el mercado.

    En 2018, el gobierno de Piñera presentó un proyecto de ley para dar certeza jurídica a la propiedad privada del agua a perpetuidad e introducir remates de agua. Actualmente en Chile se están rematando 38 ríos; básicamente, el Estado remata los litros por segundo que corren por ese río. Mientras esto ocurre en algunos territorios donde todavía hay agua, los territorios donde se concentra el 67% de la población chilena, unos 12 millones de personas, son zonas de emergencia hídrica. Nuestra región, Valparaíso, es zona de catástrofe hídrica por sequía. Es inaudito que por un lado haya semejante cantidad de población con serias dificultades para acceder al agua potable y que por otro lado el Estado esté rematando ríos.

    ¿Qué trabajo hacen ustedes para lograr el reconocimiento del derecho al agua?

    Desde hace más de quince años visibilizamos el conflicto de las aguas en nuestro territorio. Si bien surgimos en la región de Valparaíso, desde 2016 nuestra organización tiene alcance nacional. Luchamos en todo el país por la regulación del agua como un bien común. El derecho al agua es un derecho humano fundamental.

    Nuestra estrategia primigenia fue instalar la lucha por el agua, visibilizar el conflicto y llevar al Parlamento la discusión de la derogación de la propiedad privada del agua, a pesar de nuestra falta de confianza en la casta política que tiene en sus manos la tarea de legislar y fiscalizar.

    En el año 2016 dimos un paso importante con una estrategia internacional que dio a conocer en todo el mundo que en nuestra provincia se viola el derecho humano al agua para producir aguacate. Salimos en un reportaje de la televisión alemana titulado “Palta súperalimento asesino ambiental”, varios reportajes en The Guardian que hablan de cómo los chilenos se están quedando sin agua, el reportaje de RT en español, “Las lágrimas secas de Chile”, y varios más. El año pasado Netflix destinó un episodio de su programa Rotten al negocio del aguacate y a la violación del derecho humano al agua en Chile. Hemos tenido buenas repercusiones; solo en 2019 obtuvimos dos reconocimientos internacionales: el Premio Internacional de Derechos Humanos entregado por la ciudad de Nuremberg, Alemania, en septiembre; y el Premio Danielle Mitterrand, entregado por la Fundación France Libertés, en noviembre.

    Otra cosa que hacemos es formar cuadros. Tenemos programas de formación de largo aliento y hacemos un trabajo permanente de interpelación teórica y política. También nos movilizamos. En el marco del estallido social que se dio en Chile a partir del 18 de octubre de 2019 hemos hecho escuchar nuestra demanda. Es evidente que, si bien a nivel nacional las principales demandas pasan por recuperar los fondos de pensión de los trabajadores y mejorar la educación y la salud, en algunas regiones más al norte y más al sur de la capital la demanda más importante es la recuperación del agua como un bien común, como un derecho humano.

    Además de movilizarnos, hacemos un trabajo territorial que supone acciones de mayor radicalidad como cortes de ruta y ocupaciones. Entre las acciones directas que se hacen en los territorios están las acciones de recuperación de pozos y de destrucción de drenes. Algunas organizaciones territoriales de base toman pozos de propiedad de empresas mineras, resisten en la toma tanto como pueden – a veces durante 60, 70 días – y desvían el agua hacia su comunidad. En sitios donde ya no hay agua en los ríos, el agua subterránea es capturada a través de drenes, obras de ingeniería que capturan, canalizan y transportan toda el agua subterránea. Algunas comunidades destruyen los drenes que conducen el agua para uso del agronegocio, por ejemplo de las empresas forestales. Las acciones de resistencia han aumentado desde el comienzo del estallido social en octubre de 2019.

    La lucha por el agua es radical porque erosiona las bases de la desigualdad. Es que el origen de las principales fortunas chilenas es la apropiación de los bienes comunes, y básicamente del agua y la tierra. La fortuna de presidente Piñera no es una excepción.

    ¿Han enfrentado represalias a causa de este activismo?

    Sí, a causa de nuestra estrategia de visibilización del conflicto de las aguas varios compañeros han sido amenazados de muerte. Por eso en 2017 Amnistía Internacional hizo una campaña mundial que recolectó más de 50.000 firmas para que se garantizaran nuestras vidas.

    A mí entre 2012 y 2014 me llevaron 24 veces a cuatro tribunales distintos porque denuncié a quien fue ministro del Interior en el primer gobierno de Michelle Bachelet (2006-2010), que además de ser un funcionario destacado de la Democracia Cristiana era un empresario que desviaba agua para su campo para producir aguacate y cítricos. Lo denuncié en 2012 en una entrevista con CNN y eso me significó 24 comparecencias en tribunales a lo largo de dos años. Finalmente fui condenado, primero a cinco años de cárcel, que luego fueron reducidos a 540 días y después a 61, y finalmente nuestros abogados lograron que me dieran en libertad condicional; tenía que ir a firmar los primeros cinco días de cada mes. También tuvimos que pagar una multa.

    Hemos sido agredidos y amenazados de muerte muchas veces. En noviembre de 2019 una investigación publicada en un medio electrónico reveló que éramos blanco de vigilancia de la inteligencia policial. Sin embargo, en respuesta a un recurso de amparo contra Carabineros, en febrero de 2020 la Corte Suprema emitió un fallo donde dice que el seguimiento de que somos objeto no viola derechos constitucionales. Así es Chile en toda su inmunda injusticia.

    La conducta de los gobiernos ha sido invariable, más allá del signo político del gobierno de turno. Todos los gobiernos han hecho acuerdos para mantener el modelo privado de aguas porque es un negocio, un negocio que le tributa a la casta política. Cuando salen de su cargo público, los funcionarios pasan a ocupar cargos en los directorios de las empresas que se apropian del agua.

    ¿Ustedes se sumaron en 2019 a las movilizaciones globales por el cambio climático?

    En Chile nos venimos movilizando desde mucho antes. En 2013 tuvimos nuestra primera marcha nacional por la recuperación del agua y la tierra, y desde entonces nos movilizamos cada año el 22 de abril, que es el Día de la Tierra. También lo hacemos para conmemorar el Día Mundial del Agua el 22 de marzo. Llevamos marchando mucho tiempo. En Chile hay una crisis social, ambiental y de humanidad. Estamos ante la necesidad de salvaguardar derechos humanos que son esenciales para el cumplimiento de los demás derechos. El derecho humano al agua es una condición básica para poder acceder a todos los demás derechos.

    También llevamos mucho tiempo movilizándonos para denunciar que el modelo de desarrollo de Chile es profundamente contaminante, profundamente depredador. Tenemos privatizados los recursos del mar: siete familias son dueñas de todos los recursos marinos de Chile. Tenemos cinco zonas de sacrificio, es decir, áreas que concentran una gran cantidad de industrias contaminantes. Se trata de Coronel, Huasco, Mejillones, Quintero y Tocopilla. Las zonas de sacrificio son no solamente un problema ambiental sino también un problema social, de discriminación contra las comunidades más pobres y vulnerables. Están saturadas de plantas termoeléctricas a carbón y, en algunos casos, de fundiciones de cobre. Las termoeléctricas son 28: 15 de propiedad estadounidense, ocho francesas, tres italianas, y dos de capitales nacionales. Los habitantes de estas zonas han soportado la emisión de gases tóxicos y metales pesados durante décadas. Nosotros llevamos años movilizándonos en estas zonas en defensa de los bienes naturales comunes.

    ¿Se han involucrado ustedes en foros internacionales sobre medio ambiente y cambio climático?

    Sí, yo mismo me involucré personalmente varias veces. Por ejemplo, en 2014, antes de que me condenaran, estuve en París, Francia, invitado por varias organizaciones de la sociedad civil europeas a un foro sobre defensores y defensoras de derechos humanos, donde me tocó hablar del modelo privado de agua y de tierra. En 2018 fui invitado a Dublín, Irlanda, a un encuentro mundial de defensores de derechos humanos en riesgo. Ese mismo año también fui invitado a un encuentro regional de defensores de derechos humanos en Lima, Perú.

    También nos hemos involucrado en foros intergubernamentales como la Conferencia de las Partes (COP) de la Convención Marco de Naciones Unidas sobre Cambio Climático. En 2019, Chile iba a ser el país anfitrión de la COP 25, y la movilización mundial por el clima que hubo durante ese año tuvo un eco tremendo en Chile. Obviamente ni el Foro de Cooperación Económica Asia-Pacífico, proyectado para el mes de noviembre, ni la COP 25, proyectada para los primeros días de diciembre, pudieron realizarse en Chile, porque el gobierno fue completamente desbordado por la movilización popular que se inició a fines de octubre, y porque respondió a ella con violaciones sistemáticas de los derechos humanos.

    Varias compañeras nuestras estuvieron en la COP 25 en Madrid, España, y tuvieron la posibilidad de hablar con el juez español Baltasar Garzón y con algunos funcionarios de la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. De hecho, poco después de este encuentro tuvimos en Chile una reunión con Baltasar Garzón, que fue el juez que enjuició al ex dictador Pinochet y lo hizo detener en Gran Bretaña. Garzón se impresionó muchísimo con el modelo de agua y los relatos de nuestras compañeras. También recientemente estuvimos con la delegación de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) durante su visita a Chile. Nos reunimos con Soledad García Muñoz, la Relatora Especial de la CIDH sobre Derechos Económicos, Sociales, Culturales y Ambientales, y le presentamos el panorama de Chile y lo que significa vivir privados de agua.

    ¿Te parece que en foros como la COP hay espacio como para que la sociedad civil tenga voz e influencia?

    Yo tengo una opinión crítica sobre la COP. Creo que en general es una feria de vanidades a la que van muchos mandatarios, muchos ministros de Medio Ambiente y Agricultura, a prometerle al mundo lo que no pueden cumplir en sus propios países. Los principales países emisores de gases de efecto invernadero tienen líderes que ya sea niegan el cambio climático o se la pasan hablando sobre el cambio climático pero no parecen tener la menor intención de modificar el comportamiento económico depredador de su país. Los principales países responsables del cambio climático, del calentamiento global, son actualmente los principales detractores de la COP.

    Con todo, las cumbres ofrecen un espacio a la sociedad civil, desde donde es posible interpelar a los poderosos, insistir sobre la injusticia climática que afecta a todo el planeta y promover la construcción de un nuevo modelo de desarrollo que sea viable y económicamente competitivo a la vez que socialmente más justo y ecológicamente más sano. Pero para eso necesitamos nuevos paradigmas: no podemos seguir pensando que hay perspectivas de desarrollo ilimitado en un planeta que cuenta con recursos naturales finitos.

    El espacio cívico en Chile es clasificado como ‘estrecho’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con MODATIMA a través de susitio web y su perfil deFacebook, o siga a@Modatima_cl en Twitter.

     

  • ‘Chile has entirely privatised water, which means that theft is institutionalised’

     

    Following a year marked by massive mobilisation on the climate emergency, CIVICUS is interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about the main environmental challenges they face in their contexts and the actions they are taking. CIVICUS speaks with Rodrigo Mundaca, Agronomist and National Spokesperson of the Defence Movement for Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA), an organisation established in 2010 in the Chilean province of Petorca, in the Valparaíso region, to defend the rights of farmers, workers and local people. Since the 1990s, the region has been affected by the massive appropriation of water by agribusiness in collusion with the political establishment.

    Rodrigo Mundaca

    What is the main environmental issue in your context?

    The main problem is water. We live in a territory characterised mainly by the monoculture of avocado, the production of which requires huge amounts of water. Water is in the hands of large producers who have dried out our territory and compromised the lives of our communities. Ours is an extreme case: Chile has entirely privatised water, which means that theft is institutionalised. Chile has clearly prioritised extractive industries over the rights of communities to water.

    The privatisation of water sources in Chile dates back to the Pinochet dictatorship of 1973 to 1990. The 1980 Constitution enshrined the private ownership of water. This was maintained, and even deepened, following the democratic transition, since sanitation was also privatised. The privatisation process of sanitation began in 1998, under the administration led by Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, a Christian Democrat. Nowadays, people in Chile pay the highest rates in Latin America for drinking water, which is owned by large transnational corporations. Overall, the Suez group, Aguas de Barcelona, Marubeni and the Ontario teachers’ pension fund administrator from Canada control 90 per cent of the drinking water supply.

    Right now, President Sebastián Piñera's government is auctioning off rivers. Piñera came into government with a mission to underpin the legal certainty of water rights ownership, and his cabinet includes several ministers who own rights to water use, the most prominent of which is the Minister of Agriculture, Antonio Walker Prieto. This minister and his family own more than 29,000 litres per second, which is equivalent to the continuous water supply used by approximately 17 million people.

    Is it as simple as someone owning the rivers and being able to prevent others from using the water?

    Yes, the 1980 Chilean Constitution literally states that the rights of individuals over water, recognised or constituted in accordance with the law, grant their bearers ownership over it. In 1981, the Water Code established that water is a national good for public use but also an economic good. Water ownership was separated from land ownership, so that there are water owners who have no land and landowners who have no water. It is the state's prerogative to grant rights for water use. These rights fall into two categories: water rights for consumption use and water rights for non-consumptive use, for example for generating electricity. In the first category, 77 per cent of the rights are held by the agricultural and forestry sector, 13 per cent by the mining sector, seven per cent by the industrial sector and approximately three per cent by the health sector. As for the rights for the use of water that is not consumed, 81 per cent are in the hands of an Italian public-private company. The owners of exploitation rights can sell or lease water use in the marketplace.

    In 2018, the Piñera administration proposed a bill aimed at providing legal certainty to perpetuity to private owners of water and introducing water auctions. Currently, 38 rivers in Chile are being auctioned off; basically, what the state does is auction off the litres per second that run through a river. While this occurs in some territories where there is still water, areas accounting for 67 per cent of the Chilean population – some 12 million people – have become water emergency areas. Our region, Valparaíso, is a zone of water catastrophe due to drought. This is unheard of: while such a large population has serious difficulties in accessing drinking water, the state is auctioning off rivers.

    What kind of work do you do to promote the recognition of access to water as a right?

    For more than 15 years we have made visible the conflict over water in our territory. Although we originated in the Valparaíso region, from 2016 onwards our organisation has worked nationwide. We fight at the national level for water to be regulated as a common good. The right to water is a fundamental human right.

    Our original strategy was to kickstart the struggle for water, render the conflict visible and bring debate to parliament about the need to repeal private ownership of water, despite our lack of confidence in the political class that has the responsibility to make the law and watch over its implementation.

    In 2016 we took an important step by putting forward an international strategy that made it known throughout the world that in our province the human right to water was being violated in order to grow avocados. We were featured in a German TV report, ‘Avocado: Superfood and Environmental Killer’, in several articles in The Guardian describing how Chileans are running out of water and in an RT report in Spanish, ‘Chile’s Dry Tears’, among others. Last year Netflix dedicated an episode of its Rotten show to the avocado business and the violation of the human right to water in Chile. We have had a positive reception. In 2019 alone, we received two international awards: the International Human Rights Prize awarded by the city of Nuremberg, Germany, in September, and the Danielle Mitterrand Prize, awarded by the France Libertés Foundation, in November.

    Another thing we do is develop activists and leaders. We have long-term training programmes and do ongoing work to develop theoretical and political thinking. We also mobilise. In the context of the widespread protests that started in Chile on 18 October 2019, we have made our demands heard. Clearly, although at the national level the main demands concern the restitution of workers’ pension funds and improvements in education and health, in some regions further north and further south of the capital, the most important demand concerns the recovery of water as a common good and a human right.

    In addition to mobilising, our work on the ground involves more radical actions such as roadblocks and occupations. Among direct actions carried out on the ground are the seizure of wells and the destruction of drains. Some local grassroots organisations seize wells owned by mining companies, resist as long as they can – sometimes for 60 or 70 days – and divert the water to their communities. In places where rivers no longer carry water, groundwater has been captured through drains, works of engineering that capture, channel and carry all groundwater away. Some communities destroy the drains that transport water for use by agribusiness such as forestry companies. Such actions of resistance have increased since the start of the social protests in October 2019.

    The struggle for water is a radical one because it erodes the foundations of inequality. The origin of the major Chilean fortunes is the appropriation of common goods, basically water and land. President Piñera's fortune is no exception.

    Have you faced reprisals because of your activism?

    Yes, because of our strategy to give visibility to the conflict over water, several of our activists have been threatened with death. That is why in 2017 Amnesty International conducted a worldwide campaign that collected more than 50,000 signatures to demand protection for us.

    Between 2012 and 2014, I was summoned 24 times by four different courts because I denounced a public official who had been Minister of the Interior under the first administration of President Michelle Bachelet (2006 to 2010). As well as being a leading Christian Democratic Party official, this person was a business owner who diverted water toward his properties to grow avocado and citrus. I reported this in 2012, during an interview with CNN, and that cost me 24 court appearances over two years. I was finally sentenced, first to five years in jail, which were then reduced to 540 days and then to 61, and finally our lawyers managed to put me on probation. I had to show up and sign on the first five days of each month. We also had to pay a fine.

    We have been attacked and threatened with death many times. In November 2019, an investigation published on a news site revealed that we were being targeted by police intelligence surveillance. However, in response to an amparo appeal – a petition for basic rights – against the police, in February 2020 the Supreme Court issued a ruling that the surveillance to which we are subjected does not violate our constitutional rights. This is Chile in all of its filthy injustice.

    Government behaviour has always been the same, regardless of the political colour of the incumbent government. All governments have reached agreements to keep the private water model because it is business, and one that is highly profitable for the political class. When they leave their positions in government, former public officials go on to occupy positions in the boards of the companies that appropriate the water.

    Did you join the global climate mobilisations of 2019?

    In Chile we have been mobilising since long before. In 2013 we had our first national march for the recovery of water and land, and from then on we have mobilised every year on 22 April, Earth Day. We also demonstrate to commemorate World Water Day on 22 March. We have been on the move for a long time. Chile is going through a social, environmental and humanity crisis. We face the need to safeguard human rights that are essential for the fulfilment of other rights. The human right to water is a basic precondition for people to be able to access all other rights.

    We have also been mobilised for a long time to denounce that Chile's development model is extremely polluting and deeply predatory. We have privatised marine resources: seven families own all of Chile’s marine resources. Our country has five areas of sacrifice, that is, areas that concentrate a large number of polluting industries. These are in Colonel, Huasco, Mussels, Quintero and Tocopilla. The areas of sacrifice are not only an environmental problem but also a social problem; they discriminate against the poorest and most vulnerable communities. They are overflowing with coal-fired thermoelectric plants and, in some cases, with copper smelters. The are 28 thermoelectric plants: 15 of these are US companies, eight are French, three are Italian and two are owned by domestic capital. The population in these areas has endured the emission of toxic gases and heavy metals for decades. We have been mobilising in these areas for years in defence of common natural assets.

    Have you engaged in international forums on the environment and climate change?

    Yes, I have been involved several times. In 2014, before I was convicted, I went to Paris, France by invitation of several European civil society organisations to attend a forum on human rights defenders, where I spoke about the private water and land model. In 2018 I was invited to a global meeting of human rights defenders at risk, held in Dublin, Ireland. That same year I was also invited to a regional meeting of human rights defenders that took place in Lima, Peru.

    We have also been involved in intergovernmental forums such as the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In 2019, Chile was going to host the COP 25, and the global mobilisation for climate throughout the year had a tremendous echo in Chile. Obviously neither the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, planned for November, nor COP 25, scheduled for early December, could be held in Chile, because the government was completely overwhelmed by the popular mobilisation that began in late October, and because it responded to this with systematic human rights violations.

    Several of our members were at COP 25 in Madrid, Spain, and were able to speak with the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón and with some officials of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Shortly after this meeting we had a meeting in Chile with Baltasar Garzón, the judge who prosecuted former dictator Pinochet and had him arrested in the UK. Garzón was very impressed with the water model and the stories our activists told him. Also recently we met with the delegation of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) during their visit to Chile. We met with Soledad García Muñoz, the IACHR Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights, and presented an overview of the Chilean situation and what it means to live deprived of water.

    Do you think that forums such as the COP offer space for civil society to speak up and exercise influence?

    I have a critical opinion of the COP. I think that in general it is a fair of vanities attended by many presidents, and many ministers of environment and agriculture, to promise the world what they cannot fulfil in their own countries. The main greenhouse gas emitting countries have leaders who either deny climate change, or are talking the talk about climate change but don’t seem to have the intention to make any change in their country’s predatory economic behaviour. The countries that are most responsible for climate change and global warming are currently the main detractors of the COP.

    However, the summits do offer a space for civil society, from where it is possible to challenge the powerful, speak up about the climate injustice that affects the entire planet and promote the construction of a new development model that is viable and economically competitive while also socially fairer and ecologically healthier. But for that we need new paradigms: we cannot continue to think that there are unlimited development prospects on a planet that has finite natural resources.

    Civic space in Chile is classified as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with MODATIMA through theirwebsite andFacebook page, or follow@Modatima_cl on Twitter.

     

  • CHILE: ‘Anti-rights groups become stronger when their narrative emanates from the government’

    hector pujols

    As part of our 2019thematic report, we are interviewing civil society activists, leaders and experts about their experiences and actions in the face of backlash from anti-rights groups and their strategies to strengthen progressive narratives and civil society responses. CIVICUS speaks to Héctor Pujols, spokesperson for Chile’s National Immigrant Coordination. The Coordination is a network that brings together activists and organisations that work for the defence of the human rights of Chile’s migrant population and advocates for legislative advances and the implementation of inclusive public policies towards migrant communities. 

    Can you tell us what kind of work the National Immigrant Coordination does?

    The Coordination is a network of organisations, migrants’ groups and movements; we think that migrants need their own organisations. The Coordination has existed since 2014, but many organisations that are part of it, especially those of Peruvian immigrants, have been around for 20 to 25 years. Our membership is diverse and includes cultural organisations; thematic ones, dedicated for instance to labour or housing issues; sectoral ones, such as the Secretariat of Immigrant Women; those that are territorial in nature, linked to particular communes; and others that are organised by nationality, and seek to provide spaces and opportunities to Argentine, Ecuadorian, or Peruvian communities.

    One of the Coordination’s main tasks, although not the only one, is political advocacy at the national level to improve the inclusion of the migrant population. We do it by organising ourselves as migrants, and coordinating with other organisations, including unions and civil society organisations of other kinds. 

    What does the Coordination think about the draft Aliens Law currently under debate in the Chilean Senate?

    Historically, at least in contemporary times, Chile has not had a flow of immigration of comparable dimensions to other Latin American countries. The phenomenon increased in the 1990s, with Bolivian and Peruvian immigration flows, but it has been over the past 10 years that it has become more significant, with an increase in the number of immigrants coming from other countries in the region, mainly Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and, more recently, Venezuela.

    In this context, about five or six years ago talk began about the need to update the 1975 Aliens Act, which had been established in the context of the dictatorship and had a national security focus. This law views the migrant as a foreign agent, an ideological agitator, someone who seeks to import the revolution. When this law was made during the dictatorship, the migrant that lawmakers had in mind was the typical one of times of the Popular Unity, Chile’s former leftist ruling party – Argentinians, Cubans and Uruguayans who came to support the leftist government or were seeking safe haven after fleeing other governments that persecuted them.

    The new migratory context is quite different, and there has been broad consensus that the 1975 law does not conform to the current reality. For years the Coordination and other organisations have been demanding a new legal framework that enables the inclusion of the migrant population.

    However, the debate has been complex and over the past year, after President Sebastián Piñera‘s inauguration, the government introduced a very similar bill to the one they had already submitted to Congress in 2013: one that shifts the focus from the foreigner viewed as an external agitator towards the foreigner as an economic asset, whose value depends on how much money they bring in their pockets. A complex debate ensued in which Chile has tried to position itself in the world by adopting a visa system similar to those of countries such as Australia or Canada, without the understanding that the migratory context and the characteristics of immigration in Chile are not the same as in those countries. This bill has already been passed by the House and is now in the Senate.

    We think that, if passed, this law would greatly encourage irregular migration, which is already a big problem in Chile. It would encourage people to arrive as tourists and overstay their visas, with no prospect of regularising their situation even if they get a job. An irregular migratory status negatively affects access to all rights – to health, education and even to decent work. A person who cannot sign an employment contract will work anyway, because they have to make a living, but they will do so in much more precarious conditions. In sum, on the surface the bill adopts civil society discourse on the need to renew the legal framework, but it is fundamentally an anti-rights initiative.

    The exercise of civic freedoms by migrants seems to have intensified. How do migrants view themselves in relationship to their citizenship status?

    I think we do not see the exercise of our rights to organise, mobilise and claim our rights as tied to any citizenship status because the Chilean Constitution equates citizenship with nationality, as a result of which foreigners cannot be citizens. However, the Constitution also establishes that after five years of residence foreigners are allowed to vote. And regardless of length of residence or the rights assigned to us by the Constitution and the laws, in practice we exercise other rights that are related to being a citizen - we organise, mobilise and do political advocacy, even though this is banned by the Aliens Act.

    The Aliens Act lists attacks against the interests of the state and interference with political situations of the state as reasons for expulsion. The ways it is interpreted and enforced are very arbitrary: it always results in the expulsion of people with progressive or critical views, rather that people with far-right political leanings. Not long ago, in 2017, some young Peruvians were expelled for having books on Marxism. The Coordination submitted an amparo petition – an appeal for the protection of basic rights – and won, but the expulsion order had already been executed and they were already out of the country.

    This was not an isolated case; there have been several others. An Italian journalist was expelled because he did visual communications for the mobilisation process of a very important union. A Basque colleague was also expelled because of his involvement with the indigenous Mapuche communities; he was accused of having links with ETA, the Basque terrorist organisation. This was proven false but he was expelled anyway. All this happened under the administration of former President Michelle Bachelet, that is, independently of the incumbent government’s leanings.

    You were in the middle of the discussion of the bill when calls for an anti-migrant mobilisation began. Who were the groups behind this mobilisation?

    These groups were not new. They had already made another call before but it had not resonated as it did this time. These are groups linked to a long-existing far right, the kind of far right that never dies in any country. Although perhaps its presence declines at times, it always remains latent, waiting for the opportunity to resurface. These are groups that defend the dictatorship but know that if they go out to the streets to shout ‘Viva Pinochet’ many people will reject them. So they find different themes that allow them to further their narrative. For instance, they took advantage of the salience of the rejection of so-called gender ideology and joined anti-abortion marches, and now they are working around the issue of immigration.

    Far-right groups are characterised by an extremely simple and exclusionary discourse: the other, the one that’s different, the one coming from outside, the stranger who is not Chilean – they are the enemy, because they are the cause of all the country's ills. These groups come from various places, but they all find protection under the current government’s institutional discourse, which blames everything on immigration. Weeks ago, President Piñera said that the increase in unemployment in Chile was caused by the arrival of migrants, even against his own Minister of Labour’s denials. His former Minister of Health said that the increase in HIV/AIDS in Chile was the migrant population’s fault. This institutional discourse, based on falsehoods, is taking root and is being taken advantage of by far-right groups.

    What explains the fact that this time around they have had more of an appeal than in the past?

    These groups become stronger when their narrative emanates from the government. The proposals put forward by the far right are the same as the government’s: for example, to deny healthcare to people with under two years of residence and to eliminate access to education. The government says, ‘let’s take rights away from immigrants’ and these groups move just one step further and say, ‘let’s kick immigrants out’. The underlying diagnosis is the same in both cases: we are being invaded, they are coming to take our jobs, they are coming to take our social benefits, Chile First.

    Additionally, in this case social media is playing an amplification role. These groups have learned how to use social media. They learned a lot from Brazil’s experience; some actually travelled there to support then-candidate Bolsonaro. The skilful use of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allows them to reach a wide audience –­ the Chilean who is going through hard times – to whom they offer a simple explanation and a solution: you can't find work; the fault lies with immigrants; the solution is to throw them out.

    You mentioned a curious phenomenon: ultra-nationalist far-right groups that become internationalists, by networking, collaborating and learning from their peers in other countries.

    Yes, there is an ongoing international process in which the Chilean far right learns from what the Argentine far right does, and the Argentinian far right learns from that of Brazil, and so on. The narratives we have heard in Chile are an exact copy of those used by the extreme right in Spain, where the phenomenon of the far-right Vox party emerged almost a year ago. They are an exact copy, even though the Chilean reality is very different. In Spain, the claim that migrants take up all social support was very intense, and in Chile the same discourse was attempted, since it is an international tactic, but not surprisingly it had less of an impact because social support in Chile is very limited. So it is not always working for them; it is a matter of trial and error. But these groups do form a network that is becoming stronger internationally, which is very worrying.

    These groups summoned a mobilisation against immigrants that was scheduled for 12 August 2019, but in the end the march did not materialise. Can you explain what happened?

    The call to the march was spread through social media, and a far-right influencer, a member of one of the organising groups, called on protesters to bear arms to defend themselves against the anti-fascist groups that had summoned a counter-demonstration.

    In Chile it is necessary to request an authorisation to hold a street mobilisation, and in the capital, Santiago, the Municipality is in charge of giving the authorisation. After several conversations, and under pressure from socialorganisations and the Bar Association, which requested that the permit be denied, the Municipality did not authorise the march. There were some isolated incidents caused by about 20 people who attended notwithstanding, but not much else happened.

    The Coordination convened another event on the same day, given that it was complicated for us to support the counter-demonstration held by anti-fascist groups in light of the limitations placed on immigrants’ rights to political participation. On that very same Sunday morning we held an event at the Museum of Memory, a space dedicated to the victims of the dictatorship. The focus of our call was the rejection of hate speech, which today happens to be targeted against immigrants but at other times has been targeted against women or against those who thought differently, and which leads to the practices we experienced under the dictatorship. When you dehumanise a person then you can then torture her, drop her body into the sea or make her disappear. That was our response. Around 150 people attended, which is not that many, but it should be enough to show that we are also part of this country and that we have memory.

    What strategy should adopt the civil society that advocates for the human rights of migrants in the face of anti-rights groups?

    These groups are here to stay, and they have already planned a new demonstration for 7 September 2019. The prevalent narrative focuses on an alleged migrant invasion, so ours is a dispute for common sense, a long-term struggle. We work in a strategic partnership with progressive and democratic movements, but these need to put aside their paternalistic attitude towards the migrant population. We do not want to be treated as helpless people in need of assistance; that is why we are an organisation of migrant persons, not an organisation that defends the rights of migrants. We do not want paternalistic aids; we want equal rights.

    Civic space in Chile is rated as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with the National Migrants’ Coordination through itswebsite, read Héctor Pujols’blog or follow@HectorPumo and@MigrantesChile on Twitter.

     

  • CHILE: ‘Hay un rechazo estructural hacia la forma de gobernar de todas las décadas anteriores’

    Nicole RomoEn octubre de 2019 estallaron en Chile protestas protagonizadas por estudiantes, inicialmente en rechazo de un aumento en el precio del transporte, que rápidamente escalaron hasta convertirse en multitudinarias manifestaciones en reclamo de cambios estructurales, y fueron ferozmente reprimidas por las fuerzas de seguridad. CIVICUS conversa sobre las protestas con Nicole Romo, directora del área de Políticas Públicas de la Comunidad de Organizaciones Solidarias, una red de más de 200 organizaciones de la sociedad civil de Chile que trabajan para combatir la pobreza y la exclusión. En conjunto, las organizaciones miembros trabajan con más de 900.000 usuarios y cuentan con unos 11.000 trabajadores y más de 17.000 voluntarios.

    ¿Por qué estalló la movilización en Chile, y qué hizo que las protestas escalaran como lo hicieron?

    El estallido social en Chile se produjo luego de décadas en que se fue profundizando un modelo de desarrollo que se concentró en generar riquezas, las cuales fueron distribuidas por años sin equidad y justicia. Se profundizaron políticas sociales individuales, cortoplacistas y asistencialistas que dañaron profundamente la cohesión social y el sentido comunitario y colectivo del bienestar, políticas de vivienda que segregaron a los chilenos en territorios “de ricos” y territorios “para pobres” donde el acceso a bienes y servicios también quedó distribuido de la misma manera, un sistema de pensiones que tiene como consecuencia un grave empobrecimiento en la vejez, falta de acceso a la salud de manera oportuna y con adecuados estándares de calidad, y un sistema de educación que también segrega y otorga oportunidades diametralmente distintas a ricos y pobres.

    En este contexto, la frase “no son treinta pesos, son treinta años”, que se escuchó mucho en las protestas, explica muy bien el sentir de la ciudadanía, puesto que si bien este movimiento social comenzó con la evasión masiva del pago del transporte público por parte de los estudiantes (tras un alza de 30 pesos chilenos) el verdadero malestar se ha acumulado por más de 30 años, y a pesar de reiteradas manifestaciones por diversas demandas sociales, nunca había sido escuchado y ni siquiera visibilizado. El estallido social del 18 de octubre de 2019 es la acumulación de un rechazo estructural hacia el gobierno y la forma de gobernar de todas las décadas anteriores.

    ¿Qué actitud han tomado la ciudadanía y las organizaciones de la sociedad civil en relación con la protesta?

    La movilización nacional que estamos viviendo ha dejado en evidencia de manera nítida que tenemos dos Chiles habitando en un mismo territorio, dos Chiles que no se conocen y no se encuentran. Esta división expresa brutalmente la diferencia en la calidad de vida entre quienes tienen privilegios y quienes no los tienen. Nuestro país se pasó las últimas décadas convenciéndose de que los logros están basados en el mérito individual, que solo el esfuerzo de cada cual es garantía de movilidad social, cuando en realidad y en base a diversos estudios eso no es cierto en absoluto.

    Frente a esto, los datos de distintas encuestas muestran una alta aprobación de la ciudadanía hacia las demandas sociales. Sin embargo, lo que genera una mayor división son los actos de violencia, y especialmente aquellos que han afectado infraestructura pública y privada, como saqueos, la destrucción de comercios y la quema de locales comerciales y otros tipos de servicios, así como la violencia de los agentes del Estado que han cometido reiteradas violaciones de derechos humanos.

    ¿Cómo ha reaccionado el gobierno ante las protestas?

    El gobierno ha tenido un cuestionable manejo de este conflicto, con el foco puesto principalmente en la agenda de seguridad, criminalizando la protesta, con una agenda legislativa centrada en la sanción de la protesta, lo cual revela que no se ha comprendido la naturaleza de la movilización nacional, como tampoco sus demandas y urgencias.

    La agenda social propuesta por el gobierno es débil. No apunta a generar cambios radicales en la estructura existente, que profundiza la inequidad y no garantiza los derechos de todas las personas. Los avances y contenidos de la agenda social liderada por el gobierno no están a la altura de las demandas y de la urgencia de ‘estas. Sus numerosas iniciativas y medidas suponen mejoras acotadas, necesarias pero que no tocan la estructura que genera las inequidades en nuestro país; por lo tanto, no hacen sino duplicar la misma política pública cortoplacista que no está basada en un enfoque de derechos y se centra en el individuo más que en las necesidades de miles de familias que viven en situación de vulnerabilidad.

    Los últimos informes hablan de decenas de muertos y centenares de heridos. ¿Podrías describir el alcance de la represión y de las violaciones de derechos humanos ocurridas durante las protestas?

    Desde que comenzó el estallido social en Chile se han registrado numerosas violaciones de los derechos humanos por parte de agentes de seguridad del Estado. Estas violaciones han sido denunciadas por organismos nacionales e internacionales, pero el Estado ha tendido a relativizarlas.

    Para nosotros es fundamental reiterar que en todo momento debe haber un respeto irrestricto de los derechos humanos, y que cada caso de violación debe ser investigado y debe haber sanciones y reparación para cada una de las víctimas. La sociedad civil es clave en el seguimiento y la vigilancia de estos procesos, para garantizar que sean transparentes y resulten en la asunción de responsabilidad por parte del Estado.

    Los datos del Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos indican que en el 48% de los casos observados de detenciones, las personas detenidas se estaban manifestando pacíficamente (más allá de que estuvieran o no ocupando la calzada). Asimismo, se utilizaron gases en forma indiscriminada en el 56% de los casos observados, y en el 60% de los casos observados se apreció falta de gradualidad en el uso de fuerza, que sobrevino sin previo aviso y en ausencia de diálogo. Se registraron en los hospitales 2.727 casos de personas adultas heridas, así como 211 casos de niños, niñas y adolescentes, y 241 personas resultaron con lesiones oculares. También se constató una serie de violaciones de derechos humanos contra las personas detenidas y retenidas en comisarías. La más frecuente de estas fue el uso excesivo de la fuerza durante la detención, con 751 casos. En total, se registraron 190 casos de acoso o violencia sexual, 171 de ellos correspondientes a desnudamientos.

    ¿Cómo han respondido la ciudadanía y las organizaciones de la sociedad civil ante la represión estatal y las violaciones de derechos ocurridas durante las protestas?

    Hemos respondido sin miedo. Ciudades completas han gritado sin miedo en protesta por las violaciones a los derechos humanos ocurridas durante estos meses. Muchísimas personas han levantado material testimonial para visibilizar el nivel de exposición y violencia en que se encontraron durante las protestas.

    Desde la sociedad civil la respuesta ha sido variada, pero en general todas las organizaciones han llamado a la no violencia, a la generación de nuevos espacios de diálogo y de encuentro conducentes al fortalecimiento de una sociedad con mayor justicia social y equidad. Sin lugar a dudas, la sociedad civil tomó un lugar preponderante, incitando a estos espacios de encuentro y ayudando a relevar las demandas ciudadanas. Lo hizo a través de la creación de una gran red de redes llamada Nuevo Pacto Social, que reúne a más de 600 organizaciones de la sociedad civil que han trabajado incansablemente por la búsqueda de soluciones reales a las demandas de fondo.

    Desde la Comunidad de Organizaciones solidarias sostenemos el principio de no violencia y desde el primer día del estallido social manifestamos la necesidad de respeto irrestricto hacia los derechos humanos. Si bien nuestro ámbito de acción es otro, creemos que este estallido visibilizó la urgencia de reestructurar las fuerzas policiales. Creemos fielmente en los datos entregados desde el Institución Nacional de Derechos Humanos, y sabemos que su trabajo es consciente y riguroso, al igual que el informe entregado por Amnistía Internacional, por lo que, como organizaciones de la sociedad civil, apoyaremos desde nuestro ámbito de acción todas las acciones tendientes a la reparación de los derechos vulnerados durante el estallido social.

    ¿Qué medidas inmediatas debería tomar el gobierno de Chile para superar esta crisis? ¿Qué chances hay de que ello ocurra y se alcance una solución duradera?

    Una salida duradera requeriría de un proceso largo de construcción y cambios, con medidas de corto, mediano y largo plazo.

    Las medidas de corto plazo y mediano plazo tienen relación con la agenda social, que tiene tres dimensiones. La primera es la mejora de la calidad de vida a través de medidas en temas tales como salud, educación y pensiones. La segunda dimensión abarca medidas para terminar con los abusos de las élites económicas y políticas y cerrar las brechas de aplicación de justicia ante delitos cometidos por integrantes de la élite económica y ciudadanos comunes, quienes enfrentan sanciones completamente distintas: “clases de ética” para los primeros y cárcel efectiva para los segundos. La tercera dimensión refiere a la recaudación de los recursos que el Estado necesita para llevar adelante una agenda social profunda y contundente. Chile requiere una reforma tributaria que permita aumentar la recaudación y de un sistema con mayor eficiencia en la gestión.

    El eje de largo plazo pasa por el proceso constituyente, cuyos principales hitos ya están establecidos: plebiscito de entrada, elección de representantes, plebiscito de cierre. Sin embargo, aún no se han logrado condiciones que garanticen una participación transversal y representativa, paridad de género, cuotas para minorías y candidaturas independientes. Sin estas condiciones, la legitimidad del proceso constituyente se verá severamente debilitada.

    El espacio cívico en Chile es clasificado como ‘estrecho’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con la Comunidad de Organizaciones Solidarias a través de supágina web o su perfil deFacebook, o siga a@ComunidadOrgSol y as@nromo_flores en Twitter.

     

  • CHILE: ‘Los grupos anti-derechos se fortalecen cuando su discurso es expresado desde el gobierno’

    hector pujolsEn el marco de nuestroinforme temático 2019, estamos entrevistando a activistas, líderes y expertos de la sociedad civil acerca de sus experiencias y acciones ante el avance de los grupos anti-derechos y sus estrategias para fortalecer las narrativas progresistas y la capacidad de respuesta de la sociedad civil. En esta oportunidad, CIVICUS conversa con Héctor Pujols, vocero de la Coordinadora Nacional de Inmigrantes de Chile. La Coordinadora es una red quereúne a activistas y organizaciones que trabajan por la defensa de los derechos humanos de la población migrante en Chile, y busca incidir para lograr la aprobación de legislación y la implementación de políticas públicas inclusivas de las comunidades migrantes.

     ¿Podrías contarnos qué trabajo hace la Coordinadora Nacional de Inmigrantes?

    La Coordinadora es una articulación de organizaciones, un colectivo o movimiento de personas migrantes; nuestra perspectiva es que las personas migrantes necesitan de una organización que les sea propia. La Coordinadora existe desde 2014, pero muchas organizaciones que la integran, sobre todo las vinculadas a la migración peruana, llevan trabajando entre 20 y 25 años. Nuestra membresía es diversa e incluye a organizaciones de tipo cultural; temáticas, dedicadas por ejemplo a temas laborales o de vivienda; sectoriales, como por ejemplo la Secretaria de Mujeres Inmigrantes; de carácter territorial, vinculadas a determinadas comunas; y organizadas por nacionalidad, para proporcionar espacios y oportunidades a las colectividades argentina, ecuatoriana o peruana.

    En tanto que Coordinadora, una de nuestras tareas principales, aunque no la única, es la incidencia política a nivel nacional para mejorar la inclusión de la población migrante. Es un trabajo que hacemos que hacemos autoorganizándonos, en tanto que migrantes, y articulándonos con otras organizaciones, como sindicatos y otras clases de organizaciones de la sociedad civil.

    El Senado chileno discute actualmente un proyecto de Ley de Extranjería, ¿qué opina la Coordinadora al respecto?

    Históricamente, al menos en la época contemporánea, Chile no ha tenido una migración de dimensiones comparables a las de otros países de América Latina. El fenómeno aumentó en los años ’90, con flujos de migración boliviana y peruana, pero en los últimos diez años se empezó a hacer más significativo, con el aumento de la cantidad de inmigrantes de otros países de la región, principalmente Colombia, Haití, República Dominicana y más recientemente Venezuela.

    En este contexto, hace por lo menos cinco o seis años se empezó a plantear la necesidad de actualizar la Ley de Extranjería de 1975, surgida de un contexto dictatorial y con una visión centrada en la seguridad nacional, que ve al migrante como un agente extranjero, un agitador ideológico, alguien que viene a hacer la revolución. En el contexto de la dictadura, la ley fue hecha pensando en el migrante de la época de la Unidad Popular, el gobierno de izquierda que la precedió - argentinos, cubanos y uruguayos que llegaban en apoyo de ese gobierno de izquierda o que venían a refugiarse de otros gobiernos que los perseguían.

    El nuevo contexto migratorio es bien diferente, por lo que ha habido un gran consenso respecto de que la ley de 1975 no se ajusta a la realidad actual. La Coordinadora y otras organizaciones llevamos años reclamando un nuevo marco legal que permita la inclusión de la población migrante.

    Sin embargo, el debate ha sido complejo y en el último año, tras la asunción de Sebastián Piñera en la presidencia, el gobierno presentó un proyecto de ley muy similar al que ya había presentado en 2013: un proyecto que se desplaza de la visión del extranjero como un agitador externo hacia la visión del extranjero como un aporte económico, cuyo valor depende de cuánto dinero trae en el bolsillo. Ha sido un debate complejo en el que Chile trató de situarse en el mundo adoptando un sistema de visas similar al de países como Australia o Canadá, sin entender que el contexto migratorio y las características de la migración en Chile no son las mismas que las de esos países. Este proyecto ya tiene la media sanción de la Cámara de Diputados y ahora está en el Senado.

    Nosotros planteamos que, si se aprueba, esta ley generaría una gran irregularidad migratoria, que ya es un problema en Chile. La ley incentivaría a las personas a llegar como turistas para quedarse luego de su expiración, sin perspectivas de regularizar su situación aún en caso de conseguir trabajo. La irregularidad migratoria afecta el acceso a todos los derechos, a la salud, la educación e incluso a un trabajo decente. Una persona que no puede firmar un contrato de trabajo va a trabajar de todos modos porque de algo tiene que vivir, pero va a hacerlo en condiciones mucho más precarias. En suma, el proyecto de ley adopta en la superficie el discurso de la sociedad civil sobre la necesidad de renovar el marco legal, pero fundamentalmente es una iniciativa anti-derechos.

    En los últimos tiempos se observa un ejercicio más intenso de las libertades cívicas por parte de las personas migrantes. ¿Cómo se ven los inmigrantes en relación con la ciudadanía?

    Pienso que el ejercicio de los derechos de organizarnos, movilizarnos y reclamar por nuestros derechos no se plantea en términos de ciudadanía porque la propia Constitución de Chile equipara la ciudadanía con la nacionalidad, de modo que los extranjeros no pueden ser ciudadanos. Sin embargo, la Constitución también establece que tras cinco años de permanencia los extranjeros podemos votar. E independientemente del tiempo de residencia o de los derechos que nos asignen la Constitución y las leyes, ejercemos en la práctica otros derechos relacionados con la ciudadanía, al organizarnos, movilizarnos y hacer incidencia política, pese a que está prohibido por la Ley de Extranjería.

    La Ley de Extranjería establece como motivo de expulsión el atentar contra los intereses del Estado o inmiscuirse en situaciones políticas del Estado. Su interpretación y aplicación son muy arbitrarias; siempre redunda en la expulsión de personas progresistas o que tienen una visión crítica, y no en la de personas que hacen política de extrema derecha. Hace no mucho, en 2017, a unos jóvenes peruanos los expulsaron por tener libros sobre marxismo. La Coordinadora planteó un recurso de amparo y lo ganamos, pero la ejecución ya se había hecho y ellos ya estaban expulsados del país.

    Este no fue un caso aislado, ha habido muchos otros. Un periodista italiano fue expulsado porque ser el comunicador de visual de un proceso de movilización de un sindicato muy importante. Expulsaron también a un compañero vasco porque estaba en las comunidades indígenas Mapuche; alegaron que tenía vínculos con la organización terrorista vasca ETA y aunque se demostró que era falso lo expulsaron igual. Todo esto ocurrió durante el gobierno de la ex presidenta Michelle Bachelet, o sea que es independiente de la orientación del gobierno de turno.

    Estaban ustedes en medio de la discusión del proyecto de ley cuando comenzaron los llamados a la movilización anti-migrante. ¿Quiénes son estos grupos que llamaron a la movilización?

    Estos grupos no son nuevos. Ya habían hecho otro llamado antes pero no habían tenido el eco que tuvieron esta vez. Son grupos que están vinculados a una extrema derecha histórica, esa derecha que no muere en ningún país; aunque quizás por momentos decaiga su presencia siempre queda latente esperando una oportunidad para salir de nuevo. Son grupos que defienden a la dictadura, pero saben que si salen a la calle a decir ‘viva Pinochet’ mucha gente los va a rechazar. Pero encuentran diferentes temas que les permiten instalar su discurso. Por ejemplo, se montan en el rechazo a la supuesta ideología de género y se suman a las marchas contra el aborto, y ahora también con el tema de la inmigración.

    Los grupos de extrema derecha se caracterizan por su discurso extremadamente simple y excluyente: el otro, el diferente, el que llega de afuera, el extraño que no es chileno es el enemigo, porque es la causa de todos los males del país. Estos grupos vienen de diversos sitios, pero encuentran amparo en un discurso institucional del gobierno actual, que culpa de todo a la inmigración. El presidente Piñera dijo hace unas semanas que el aumento del desempleo en Chile es producto de la llegada de población migrante, aunque el Ministro de Trabajo lo desmintió. El ex Ministro de Salud dijo que el aumento del VIH/SIDA en Chile era culpa de la población migrante. Estos discursos institucionales, basados en falsedades, se van instalando y son aprovechados por los grupos de extrema derecha.

    ¿Qué es lo que explica que esta vez hayan tenido mayor eco que en el pasado?

    Estos grupos se fortalecen cuando su discurso es expresado desde el gobierno. Los planteos de la extrema derecha son los mismos que ha hecho el gobierno: por ejemplo, negar la atención sanitaria a personas con menos de dos años de residencia, eliminar el acceso a la educación. El gobierno dice ‘vamos a quitarles derechos a los inmigrantes’ y sobre esa base estos grupos dan un paso más y dicen ‘vamos a echar a los inmigrantes’. El diagnóstico es en ambos casos el mismo: estamos invadidos, vienen a quitarnos el trabajo, vienen a quitarnos las ayudas, primero Chile.

    En este caso, además, las redes sociales jugaron un rol de amplificación. Estos grupos han aprendido a utilizar las redes sociales, aprendieron mucho de la experiencia de Brasil, algunos de hecho habían viajado para apoyar al entonces candidato Bolsonaro. El uso hábil de Facebook, Instagram y Twitter les permite llegar a una audiencia interesante - el chileno que pasa por una situación difícil – al que le ofrecen una explicación y una solución sencillas: usted no encuentra trabajo, la culpa es de los inmigrantes, la solución es echarlos.

    Te refieres a un fenómeno curioso: grupos de extrema derecha ultra-nacionalistas que sin embargo se internacionalizan, se organizan en red, colaboran y aprenden de sus pares de otros países…

    Sí, hay un proceso internacional donde la extrema derecha chilena aprende de lo que hace la extrema derecha argentina y ésta aprende de la de Brasil y así sucesivamente. Los discursos que hemos escuchado en Chile son un calco de los de la extrema derecha España, con el fenómeno de Vox, el partido de extrema derecha que apareció hace prácticamente un año. Son una copia exacta pese a que la realidad chilena es muy diferente. En España fue muy intenso el discurso de que los migrantes se llevan todas las ayudas sociales, y en Chile se ensayó el mismo discurso, ya que es una táctica internacional, pero lógicamente tuvo menos repercusión porque las ayudas sociales en Chile son muy precarias. O sea que no siempre les funciona, es prueba y error. Pero se trata de una red que se está fortaleciendo internacionalmente y eso es muy preocupante.

    Estos grupos convocaron a una marcha contra los inmigrantes para el 12 de agosto de 2019, pero la marcha finalmente no ocurrió. ¿Podrías explicar lo que pasó?

    La convocatoria a la marcha se difundió por las redes sociales, y una persona influencer de la extrema derecha, miembro de los grupos convocantes, llamó los manifestantes a portar armas para defenderse de los colectivos anti-fascistas que habían convocado a una contramarcha.

    En Chile es necesario pedir autorización para movilizarse en las calles, y en la capital, Santiago, la encargada de dar la autorización es la Intendencia. Después de varias idas y vueltas, ante la presión de las organizaciones sociales y del Colegio de Abogados, que también solicitó que se denegara el permiso, la Intendencia no autorizó la marcha. Hubo algunos incidentes aislados provocados por una veintena de personas que igual asistieron, pero no pasó de allí.

    La Coordinación convocó a otro evento para ese mismo día, entendiendo que era complejo para nosotros adherir a la contramarcha que hacían los colectivos antifascistas, dada la limitación de los derechos de participación política de los migrantes. Convocamos a un acto ese mismo domingo a la mañana en el Museo de la Memoria, que es un espacio dedicado a las víctimas de la dictadura. El eje de nuestra convocatoria fue el rechazo del discurso de odio, que hoy es contra los inmigrantes pero en otros momentos fue contra las mujeres o contra los que pensaban diferente, y que lleva a las prácticas que vivimos en dictadura. Cuando deshumanizas a una persona puedes torturarla, tirarla al mar o hacerla desaparecer. Ese fue la respuesta que dimos nosotros. Vinieron unas 150 personas, que no es tanto pero debería dar señal de que también somos parte de este país y que tenemos memoria.

    ¿Qué estrategia tendría que adoptar la sociedad civil defensora de los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes frente a los grupos anti-derechos?

    Estos grupos están para quedarse, ya tienen convocada una nueva movilización para el 7 de septiembre de 2019. El discurso instalado es el de la invasión migrante, de modo que la nuestra es una disputa por el sentido común, una lucha de largo plazo. Trabajamos en una alianza estratégica con los movimientos progresistas y democráticos, pero estos tienen que dejar de lado su mirada paternalista hacia la población migrante. Nosotros no queremos ser tratados como desvalidos necesitados de ayuda; por eso somos una organización de personas migrantes, no una organización que defiende los derechos de las personas migrantes. No queremos ayudas paternalistas, queremos los mismos derechos.

     El espacio cívico en Chile es clasificado como ‘estrecho’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con la Coordinadora Nacional de Inmigrantes a través de supágina web, acceda alblog de Héctor Pujols o siga a@HectorPumo y a@MigrantesChile en Twitter.

     

  • CHILE: ‘Se ha producido un despertar ciudadano de dimensiones históricas’

    soledad munozEn octubre de 2019 estallaron en Chile protestas protagonizadas por estudiantes, inicialmente en rechazo de un aumento en el precio del transporte, que rápidamente escalaron hasta convertirse en multitudinarias manifestaciones en reclamo de cambios estructurales, y fueron ferozmente reprimidas por las fuerzas de seguridad. CIVICUS conversa sobre las protestas con Soledad Fátima Muñoz, activista chilena y fundadora del programa de mentoría y festival feministaCurrent Symposium.  (Foto de Kati Jenson)

    ¿Cómo fue que lo que empezó con un pequeño aumento en el precio del boleto del metro se convirtió en una movilización de dimensiones sin precedentes?

    Lo primero que hay que aclarar es que esto no se debe tan solo a un aumento del precio del boleto del metro, ni tampoco es una protesta aislada. Las movilizaciones en contra de los abusos derivados del sistema neoliberal han sido constantes en Chile durante años. Entre ellas se destacaron las protestas masivas contra el sistema de pensiones privatizadas, contra el Acuerdo Transpacífico de Cooperación Económica y contra la Ley de Pesca, las protestas feministas y del movimiento impulsado bajo la consigna “Ni Una Menos”, las movilizaciones por la deuda histórica con los profesores, las protestas estudiantiles en 2006 y 2011, y las recientes movilizaciones de alumnos en contra de la llamada Ley de Aula Segura. A esto se le suma la indignación por la represión estatal sistemática de los pueblos originarios en Wallmapu, las muertes de Camilo Catrillanca y Macarena Valdés, y el encarcelamiento de la Machi Francisca Linconao y el Lonko Alberto Curamil, entre otros presos políticos. En combinación con el descontento generacional ante la impunidad de los culpables de las torturas, desapariciones y homicidios de miles de personas durante la dictadura de Augusto Pinochet, esto produjo un ambiente propicio para un despertar ciudadano de dimensiones históricas. Tras años de abusos, el pueblo chileno despertó y quiere una nueva constitución, ya que la actual fue creada durante la dictadura y está diseñada para promover la desigualdad social.

    La gran diferencia entre la protesta actual y todas las anteriores pasa por las acciones del gobierno de Sebastián Piñera, que declaró el estado de emergencia y el toque de queda, y con ello desató una represión de Carabineros y militares contra el pueblo chileno que solo es comparable con los crímenes perpetrados durante la dictadura.

    Las protestas no tienen un único ente organizador ni una consigna política específica, sino que hay muchas iniciativas independientes que hacen llamados a reunirse y manifestar, a través de las redes sociales o por distintos canales de información independiente. Algunas de las demandas generalizadas reclaman el llamado a una Asamblea Constituyente que redacte una nueva Constitución. También se reclama una estatización de los servicios básicos y la nacionalización de los recursos naturales, entre ellos el cobre, el litio y el agua. Hay también demandas de democracia directa y plebiscitos vinculantes, penalización de la corrupción político-empresarial, reivindicación de los pueblos originarios y respeto de la soberanía plurinacional del territorio, y salud, educación y pensiones dignas. A ello se suman algunas demandas más específicas, tales como el aumento del salario mínimo a $500.000 (unos 650 dólares estadounidenses), la reducción de los sueldos de los legisladores y el alza de los impuestos a los más ricos.

    Estos fueron los reclamos por los cuales empezó el movimiento, pero ante la represión desmedida del Estado, la ciudadanía hoy pide también la renuncia y el enjuiciamiento de Sebastián Piñera y de las personas involucradas en las violaciones sistemáticas de los derechos humanos ocurridas en el pasado mes.

    Se ha reportado una veintena de muertos durante la represión de las movilizaciones, además de gran cantidad de personas heridas y bajo arresto. ¿Podrías describir las violaciones de derechos cometidas contra los manifestantes?

    Es difícil dimensionar en este minuto las violaciones de derechos humanos que está cometiendo el gobierno de Sebastián Piñera, ya que – al igual que ocurría en la dictadura - hay miles de detenidos incomunicados. Es por eso que cuando se las llevan detenidas en las calles, las personas gritan su nombre, apellido y cédula de identidad. Las últimas cifras oficiales del Instituto Nacional de Derechos Humanos (INDH) de Chile son de 335 acciones judiciales, 489 víctimas representadas, 6.199 personas detenidas (726 de ellas menores de edad) y 2.365 personas heridas registradas en hospitales. Pero es difícil asegurar la veracidad de estas cifras ya que las instituciones que las difunden pueden haberse visto presionadas por el gobierno.

    El INDH, específicamente, perdió parte de su credibilidad cuando su director negó en un programa de televisión abierta la existencia de violaciones sistemáticas de derechos humanos en nuestro país. Eso es simplemente una mentira, ya que la propia institución se ha querellado en contra del actuar de Carabineros y militares. Se constataron más de 200 casos de mutilación ocular por el uso desmedido de perdigones por parte de Carabineros y maltratos, violencia sexual y torturas en los centros de detención. A esto se sumó el caso del Liceo 7 de Santiago, donde un carabinero disparó en contra de las estudiantes que se encontraban dentro del recinto. Se han efectuado allanamientos en domicilios privados y detenciones desde automóviles sin acreditamientos policial.

    A esta represión uniformada se agrega la acción de un grupo de ciudadanos que se autoproclaman “chalecos amarillos” y dicen que su misión es mantener el orden cívico y proteger la labor de Carabineros, pero en realidad son un grupo violento de ultraderecha. Entre ellos se encuentra un tal John Cobin, quien disparó un arma de fuego contra un manifestante a plena luz del día en las calles ocupadas del balneario de Reñaca y pertenece a la Liga del Sur, una organización de supremacistas blancos de California.

    ¿Qué acciones inmediatas debería adoptar el gobierno de Chile para salvaguardar los derechos civiles y las libertades democráticas?

    A un mes del inicio de las manifestaciones, el gobierno se ha caracterizado por no escuchar a la ciudadanía, y en cambio ha respondido con mayor violencia. En la madrugada del 15 de noviembre los parlamentarios llegaron a un acuerdo político entre cuatro paredes, autodenominado “Acuerdo de Paz” que daría paso a una nueva Constitución. El acuerdo garantiza una “hoja en blanco” para que haya una discusión libre y establece el llamado a una convención constituyente a través de un plebiscito público. Pero parte de la ciudadanía movilizada no está conforme con los plazos ni con el quórum (de dos tercios) establecido para la toma de decisiones del órgano constituyente, ya que piensa que reencauzará el actual proceso democrático a un sistema diseñado para proteger a la clase política y evitar que las voces minoritarias adquieran poder.

    Pienso que lo más importante en este minuto es la seguridad de la ciudadanía y, sobre todo, de las comunidades en mayor riesgo social, que no solo son las más afectadas por el sistema neoliberal, sino que también son el epicentro de la violencia descriteriada de los Carabineros y las Fuerzas Armadas. Un ejemplo de ello fue la comunidad de Lo Hermida, en Peñalolén, que tras el anuncio de las autoridades de no construir las viviendas dignas que les habían prometido se tomaron la viña de Cousiño-Macul. La represión de Carabineros no tardó en llegar, y en una noche hubo más de 200 personas heridas, dos de ellas con trauma ocular severo. Además, Carabineros ingresó y lanzó gas pimienta dentro de hogares donde había personas de la tercera edad y menores.

    Es hora de que el gobierno de Sebastián Piñera detenga la represión, deje en libertad a los más de 6.000 manifestantes que hoy se encuentran en centros de detención, asuma las consecuencias de sus acciones, y - por primera vez en la historia de Chile desde Pinochet - acabe con la impunidad ante las violaciones sistemáticas de derechos humanos. El gobierno de Piñera deberá responder ante la ley por los más de 20 personas muertas y 200 con mutilaciones oculares, las torturas a menores y los abusos sexuales contra mujeres, hombres y personas de género no binario, ya que todo esto fue consecuencia de la pésima administración de su gobierno, y se hubiese evitado, por lo menos en parte, si desde un principio hubiera mantenido un diálogo directo con la población. En ese sentido, la consigna en las calles es “Sin justicia no hay paz”.

    ¿Piensas que las movilizaciones en Chile forman parte de tendencias más amplias a nivel regional?

    Lo que está pasando en Chile es estructuralmente internacional, ya que se deriva de las medidas de austeridad perpetradas por el neoliberalismo. El sistema socioeconómico actual del país tiene sus raíces en el colonialismo europeo y fue consagrado con el golpe de Estado de Pinochet en 1973. Específicamente, con un grupo de estudiantes de las élites chilenas que a mediados de la década del ’50 se formaron en Estados Unidos en la ideología del monetarismo extremo y el neoliberalismo, bajo la tutela de Milton Friedman y Arnold Harberger. Estos alumnos - apodados “Chicago Boys” - sirvieron como ministros de Hacienda y Economía durante la dictadura, instalando medidas de privatización extrema. Estas medidas fueron incorporadas y naturalizadas por una población en estado de shock y represión.

    Las consecuencias de esa privatización se traducen en abusos de las corporaciones multinacionales que son habilitados por gobiernos en todo el mundo. En Chile, un buen ejemplo de ello es el caso expuesto por la periodista Meera Karunananthan en un artículo publicado en The Guardian en 2017. La autora explica que Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) es el mayor inversionista en Aguas del Valle, Essbio y Esval, que controla el 41% del sistema de agua y saneamiento en Chile. Esto es posible porque la Constitución chilena habilita la propiedad privada de las aguas, lo cual ha dejado a comunidades enteras en situación de sequía y sin el amparo de la ley. Sin embargo, en 2010 la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas aprobó una resolución que reconoció el acceso al agua y al saneamiento como un derecho humano; eso significa que en Chile los derechos humanos se violentan no solo a través de la represión policial sino también a través del sostenimiento de un sistema económico injusto y abusivo.

    El ejemplo citado es uno solo dentro de la gran cadena de abusos internacionales perpetrados por corporaciones que, como la empresa canadiense Barrick Gold y la empresa estatal de Noruega Statkraft, continúan abusando de las políticas del Estado subsidiario chileno y atentando en contra de nuestro planeta. Es por eso que debemos crear conciencia a nivel internacional para que se respeten las decisiones del pueblo de Chile y se brinde protección a sus pueblos originarios, sin los bloqueos ni las intervenciones políticas que resguardan al capital extranjero y perpetúan la destrucción de nuestro medio ambiente.

    ¿Qué apoyos necesita la sociedad civil chilena de la sociedad civil internacional en este proceso?

    En estos momentos es importante reconocer y crear conciencia internacional en torno de los abusos en contra de la clase obrera, los pueblos originarios, las comunidades afrodescendientes y las minorías sexuales. Personalmente he aprendido mucho en el curso de estas movilizaciones. Una de las cosas más subversivas que está impulsando la ciudadanía es el rechazo del binarismo derecha/izquierda que ha afectado severamente a las sociedades latinoamericanas y que ha sido utilizado por los gobiernos neoliberales como excusa para reprimir a la gente trabajadora.  El predominio de una política ciudadana no identificada con ninguna posición dogmática en el espectro derecha/izquierda hizo que el gobierno no pudiera identificar un enemigo ideológico y que acabara declarándole la guerra a su propio pueblo.

    La prensa establecida, nacional e internacional, está tergiversado los hechos y construyendo una narrativa en contra de la población movilizada. Pero a diferencia de lo que ocurría en el pasado, hoy estamos equipados de cámaras en nuestros celulares y podemos informar directamente. Invito a la gente del mundo a informarse a través de canales independientes y de la sociedad civil para saber realmente lo que está ocurriendo.

    El espacio cívico en Chile es clasificado como ‘estrecho’ por elCIVICUS Monitor.

    Contáctese con Soledad Muñoz a través de supágina web o siga amúsica_del_telar en Instagram.

     

  • CHILE: ‘The COP needs the participation of civil society’

    Gabriela BurdilesIn a context of great mobilisation on climate action around the world and in the run up to the next Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP 25), whichwill take placein Chile in November 2019, CIVICUS speaks with Gabriela Burdines of Fiscalía del Medio Ambiente (FIMA), a civil society organisation that since 1998 has worked to promote access to environmental justice and related legislation in Chile.

    In view of access restrictions faced during COP 24 in Poland, what expectations does civil society have of COP 25 in Chile?

    So far we have not been aware of any action by the government against civil society participation. On the contrary, the government has tried to approach civil society by organising information-sharing meetings and facilitating access to the 'green space' at COP 25, which is the area that civil society has traditionally occupied during these events, and which in Chile will be open between 2 December and 13 December at the Metropolitan Park of Cerrillos. In addition, there are civil society initiatives such as the Social Summit for Climate Action, a summit organised by civil society parallel to COP 25, and the Peoples’ Summit, an annual meeting that brings together organisations and networks from various parts of the world to share experiences, promote alternative solutions and strengthen global organisation and local action to curb the socio-environmental catastrophe. While they have not received any official government support, these meetings have so far not experienced any restrictions.

    We are yet to see what happens with the protests that will take place in public spaces, which will begin soon, in September. As civil society we are calling for a great mobilisation to be held during COP 25, on 8 December, which we hope will appeal to all people as well as to Chilean and global civil society organisations (CSOs) participating in the conference.

    How is Chilean civil society organising its participation in COP 25?

    Chile took on the challenge of hosting COP 25 after Jair Bolsonaro's government decided not to hold it in Brazil. This has significantly reduced planning times. Chilean civil society is organising around at least three groups or platforms. The three that I have knowledge of are Civil Society for Climate Action (SCAC), which is in charge of the Social Summit for Climate Action, where FIMA is participating and coordinating several groups; the People's Summit, which is taking place around the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November and COP 25; and the parallel COP 25 Civil Society Forum.

    So there are several organised spaces. In the specific case of SCAC, this came into existence because there was no other network around the issue at the time, and because there were no spaces for participation in the official COP, since FIMA is the only Chilean CSO that is currently accredited with the secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These groups are all working on different issues. They focus on national climate policy, including consultation on climate change law, decarbonisation planning and nationally determined contributions to greenhouse gas emission reductions under the UNFCCC. And they focus internationally, along with foreign CSOs such as Climate Action Network Latin America, and mainly with organisations from Central America, South America and Europe. In addition, we are doing advocacy and participating in events that will take place prior to COP 25, such as the Climate Action Summit in September and the Pre-COP.

    COP meetings need the participation of civil society, and a participatory COP would have to include parallel events held by civil society, academics, governments and other actors, within the framework of the official conference and in the green space. It would also have to facilitate mobilisations in public spaces and activities in other citizens’ forums.

    From the perspective of Chilean civil society, what are the most important issues that need to be addressed in COP 25?

    During COP 25 it will be very important to have transparency and for the participation of CSOs in events such as this to be guaranteed as a right and established as a minimum requirement that the Chilean government must comply with. I would also highlight the importance of raising awareness about the urgent actions that need to be taken in the fight against climate change and raising the issues that make up the citizen agenda that are essential to curb global warming. Finally, as civil society we will be working for the real decarbonisation of our energy matrix; the termination and reparation of environmental sacrifice zones, that is, those areas encompassing a great number of polluting industries; the promotion of clean energies with a low impact on both the environment and human rights and policies for a fair transition and adaptation to climate change; and the design of market mechanisms that include adequate environmental and social safeguards.

    For years the Chilean government led the negotiation of the Escazú Agreement on environmental democracy, but now refuses to sign it. Why is it refusing, and why is it important that it signs it?

    For several years, Chile, alongside Costa Rica, led the negotiations that culminated with the adoption of the Escazú Agreement. Through a statement when the agreement opened to signature, which they issued on 7 June 2018 in their roles as co-chairs of the negotiation process, Chile and Costa Rica reaffirmed their commitment to signing the treaty and its prompt entry into force. However, ever since the treaty opened for signature on 27 September 2018, Chile has refrained from signing.

    According to information disseminated in the media – since until now civil society has not received any formal response – the government's refusal to sign the Escazú Agreement is due to security and sovereignty reasons and is centred on the clause on cooperation with landlocked states and dispute resolution, which would affect Chile by virtue of its border conflict with Bolivia. However, the government has not said that it will not sign the treaty, but only that it is still ‘under study’. It has also stated that the entire content of the agreement is already guaranteed in our national legislation, so there would be no need to sign it.

    However, we believe that it is important that the government commits to this agreement. Chile has made great legislative progress on matters related to the right to access environmental justice, but still needs to make progress in implementation. No protection exists for climate activists and there are many gaps in matters of information, participation and justice. We recently published a report on the progress made and challenges encountered in guaranteeing access to environmental justice, and much remains to be done in this area. For example, our country has no mechanisms allowing for the provision of free legal counsel on environmental matters.

    In this context, we hope that Chile will soon sign and ratify the Escazú Agreement, and that this will be the beginning of a path that will take us to a different way of making decisions, in which agendas seeking to encourage investment will not undermine the fundamental rights of people and communities.

    Civic space in Chile is classified as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with FIMA through itswebsite orFacebook page, and follow@FIMA_Chile on Twitter.

     

  • CHILE: ‘There has been a citizen awakening of historical proportions’

    soledad munozProtests broke out in Chile in October 2019, initially led by students rejecting an increase in the price of transport and quickly escalating into mass demonstrations urging structural change. Protests were repressed with savagery by security forces. CIVICUS speaks about the protests with Soledad Fátima Muñoz, a Chilean activist and the founder of a mentoring programme and feminist festival,Current Symposium. (Photo by Kati Jenson)

    How did something that started with a small increase in the price of the metro ticket become a mobilisation of unprecedented dimensions?

    The first thing to clarify is that this was not caused just by an increase in the price of the metro ticket, nor is it an isolated protest. Mobilisations against the abuses derived from the neoliberal system have been a constant occurrence in Chile over the years. Among these were mass protests against the privatised pension system, against the Trans-Pacific Economic Cooperation Agreement and against the Fisheries Law, feminist protests and protests by the movement promoted under the slogan ‘Ni Una Menos’ (not one less), mobilisations about the historic debt owed to teachers, the student protests held in 2006 and 2011, and the more recent mobilisations by students against the so-called Safe Classroom Law. On top of this, there’s the outrage caused by systematic state repression of the Indigenous peoples in Wallmapu, the deaths of Camilo Catrillanca and Macarena Valdés, and the imprisonment of Machi Francisca Linconao and Lonko Alberto Curamil, among other political prisoners. Combined with a generation-long dissatisfaction with the impunity granted to those responsible for the tortures, disappearances and killings of thousands of people under the dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet, this produced an environment conducive to a citizen awakening of historical proportions. After years of abuse, the Chilean people woke up and want a new constitution, since the current one was drafted under the dictatorship and was designed to promote social inequality.

    The big difference between the current protests and all the previous ones is the response they triggered from the government of President Sebastián Piñera, who declared a state of emergency and a curfew, unleashing a police and military repression against the Chilean people that is only paralleled by the crimes perpetrated during the dictatorship.

    The protests are not being centrally organised and are not guided by a single political motto; there are many independent initiatives calling for people to gather and demonstrate, through social media or through various independent information channels. Some of the most widespread demands call for a constituent assembly to write a new constitution. Frequently demanded are the nationalisation of basic services and natural resources, including copper, lithium and water. There are also demands for direct democracy and binding referendums, the prosecution of political and economic corruption, respect for Indigenous peoples and plurinational sovereignty, and for health, education and decent pensions. On top of these there are also more specific demands, such as raising the minimum monthly wage to 500,000 Chilean pesos (approx. US$650), reducing legislators’ salaries and raising taxes on the richest.

    These were the reasons why the movement began, but in the face of excessive state repression, citizens are now also demanding the resignation and prosecution of President Piñera and all the people involved in the systematic violations of human rights that have taken place over the past month.

    Twenty deaths have been reported during the repression of the protests, in addition to large numbers of people injured and under arrest. Could you describe the human rights violations committed against protesters?

    It is difficult to estimate right now the human rights violations that are being committed by the Piñera administration, since – as was also the case under the dictatorship – thousands of detainees are being kept incommunicado. That is why, when people are taken away in the streets, they shout out their name, surname and identity card number. The latest official figures from the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) account for 335 legal actions initiated, 489 victims represented, 6,199 people under arrest – 726 of them minors – and 2,365 injured people registered in hospitals. But it is difficult to confirm the veracity of these figures since the institutions that disseminate them may have been pressured by the government.

    The INDH in particular partly lost its credibility when its director denied the existence of systematic human rights violations in our country on an open-air TV programme. That was simply a lie, since the institution itself had submitted complaints in the face of arbitrary actions by the police and the military. More than 200 cases of eye mutilations have happened as a result of the excessive use of pellets by the police, and there have been numerous cases of mistreatment, sexual violence and torture in detention centres. Additionally, there was an instance of repression at a school, Liceo 7 in Santiago, where a carabinero, a member of the military police, fired against students who were inside the building. There have also been raids on private homes and arrests made out of cars without police identification.

    On top of repression by the security forces, there is a group of citizens who call themselves ‘yellow vests’ and say their mission is to maintain civic order and protect the work of the police, but in reality they are a violent far-right group. Among its members is John Cobin, who fired a firearm at a protester in broad daylight on the busy streets of the Reñaca resort. He belongs to the League of the South, a white supremacist organisation from California.

    What immediate actions should the Chilean government take to safeguard civil rights and democratic freedoms?

    A month into the protests, the government has not yet listened to its citizens, and instead has responded with increasing violence. In the early hours of 15 November, lawmakers reached a political agreement behind closed doors, named the ‘Peace Agreement’ which would lead to a new constitution. The agreement guarantees a ‘blank slate’ for free discussion to take place and establishes that the call for a constitutional convention is going to be done through a public referendum. But part of the mobilised citizenry is not satisfied with either the deadlines or the required quorum of two thirds established for decision-making by the constituent body, since they think it will redirect the current democratic process towards a system designed to protect the political class and prevent minority voices from gaining power.

    I think what’s most important at this moment is the security of the citizenry and, above all, of the communities at greatest social risk, which are not only the most affected by the neoliberal system, but are also at the epicentre of the undiscerning violence applied by carabineros and the armed forces. An example of this happened in the community of Lo Hermida, in Peñalolén. After the authorities announced that they would not build the decent homes they had promised, inhabitants occupied the Cousiño-Macul vineyard. `Police repression was not long in coming, and in just one night 200 people were injured, two of them with severe eye trauma. In addition, carabineros broke in and threw pepper gas into homes with older people and minors inside.

    It is time for the Piñera government to stop the repression, release the more than 6,000 protesters who are currently being held in detention centres, take responsibility for the consequences of its actions, and – for the first time in Chilean history since Pinochet – end impunity for the systematic human rights violations that have been committed. The Piñera government must respond before the law for the more than 20 people who have been killed and the 200 that experienced eye mutilations, plus the torture of minors and sexual abuses against women, men and non-binary people, since all of these were consequences of the lousy decisions made by the government, and would have been at least partly avoided if they had maintained a direct dialogue with the public since the beginning. In this regard, the slogan chanted on the streets is: "There is no peace without justice."

    Do you think that the mobilisations in Chile are part of broader regional trends?

    What is happening in Chile is structurally international, since it derives from the austerity measures perpetrated by neoliberalism. Chile’s current socio-economic system is rooted in European colonialism and was enshrined by Pinochet’s coup d'état in 1973. Specifically, it came from a group of students belonging to Chilean elites who studied in the USA in the mid-1950s, where they absorbed the ideology of extreme monetarism and neoliberalism, under the tutelage of Milton Friedman and Arnold Harberger. These students – nicknamed the ‘Chicago Boys’ – served as finance and economics ministers under the dictatorship and introduced extreme privatisation measures. These measures were accepted and naturalised by a citizenry that was in a state of shock and repression.

    The consequences of this privatisation translate into abuses perpetrated by multinational corporations that are enabled by governments around the world. In Chile, a good example of this is the case uncovered by journalist Meera Karunananthan in an article published by The Guardian in 2017. The author explains that the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan is the largest investor in Aguas del Valle, Essbio and Esval, which control 41 per cent of the water and sanitation system in Chile. This is possible because the constitution allows for the private ownership of water, which has left entire communities in a drought situation and unprotected by the law. However, in 2010 the United Nations’ General Assembly passed a resolution recognising access to water and sanitation as a human right. This means that in Chile human rights are violated not only through police repression but also through the maintenance of an unfair and abusive economic system.

    The example cited above is just one within the great chain of international abuses perpetrated by corporations, including by the Canadian company Barrick Gold and the Norwegian state company Statkraft, which continue to abuse the policies of the Chilean subsidiary state and threaten our planet. That is why we must raise awareness at an international level so that the decisions of the Chilean people are respected and protection is provided to Indigenous peoples, without blockages or political interventions protecting foreign capital and perpetuating the destruction of our environment.

    What support does Chilean civil society need from international civil society in this process?

    At this time, it is important to recognise and create international awareness about the abuses committed against the working class, Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendant communities and sexual minorities. I personally have learned a lot in the course of these mobilisations. One of the most subversive things that citizens are doing is rejecting the right/left binarism that has so severely affected Latin American societies and that has been used by neoliberal governments as an excuse to repress working people. The prevalence of citizen politics that do not identify with any dogmatic position on the right/left spectrum meant that the government could not identify an ideological enemy and ended up declaring war on its own people.

    Mainstream national and international media are misrepresenting the facts and building a narrative against the mobilised population. But unlike what happened in the past, we are now equipped with phone cameras and can report directly. I invite people around the world to get informed through independent media and civil society channels to really know what is happening.

    Civic space in Chile is classified as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Soledad Muñoz through herwebsite or followmúsica_del_telar on Instagram.

     

  • CHILE: ‘There's radical discontent with how the country's been ruled for decades’

    Nicole Romo

    Protests broke out in Chile in October 2019, initially led by students rejecting an increase in the price of transport and quickly escalating into mass demonstrations urging structural change. Protests were repressed with savagery by security forces. CIVICUS speaks about the protests with Nicole Romo, director of the public policy area of ​​the Community of Solidarity Organisations (Comunidad de Organizaciones Solidarias), a network of more than 200 Chilean civil society organisations that work to combat poverty and exclusion. Together, its member organisations work with more than 900,000 people, mobilising around 11,000 staff members and over 17,000 volunteers.

     

    Why did protests break out in Chile, and what made them escalate as they did?

    The social outbreak in Chile came after decades of the promotion of a development model that focused on creating wealth, which for years was distributed with no fairness or justice. Individualistic, short-term and assistance-based social policies that deeply damaged social cohesion and the community and collective sense of wellbeing were implemented. Alongside this there were housing policies that segregated Chileans into ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ territories where access to goods and services was distributed in the same way, a pension system that impoverishes senior citizens, lack of access to healthcare in a timely manner and with adequate quality standards, and an education system that also segregates and grants diametrically opposed opportunities to the rich and the poor.

    In this context, the motto ‘it is not about 30 pesos, it is about 30 years’, which was heard a lot during the protests, expresses quite well the feeling that prevailed among the citizenry. Although this social movement began with students massively evading payment of public transportation fares, after a rise of 30 Chilean pesos in the cost of a metro ticket, deep-seated malaise has been accumulating for over 30 years. There have been several protests to advance various social demands over the years, but this profound discontent had never been heard or even made visible. The social eruption of 18 October 2019 was the result of the accumulation of radical discontent with the government and the way the country has been ruled for several decades.

    How have people and civil society organisations reacted to the protests?

    The national state of mobilisation that we are experiencing has clearly shown that two Chiles coexist within the same territory – two Chiles that do not know each other and do not intersect. This division is the brutal expression of the difference in the quality of life between those who have privileges and those who don’t. Our country spent the past few decades convincing itself that achievements are based on individual merit, that each person’s efforts are the only guarantee of social mobility, which in fact, as shown by a variety of studies, is absolutely untrue.

    In the face of this, data from various surveys show a high rate of approval of social demands among citizens. On the other hand, people are more divided when it comes to violence, and especially the forms of violence that have resulted in damage to public and private infrastructure, such as looting, the destruction of stores and the burning of commercial premises and other types of services, as well as regarding violence by state agents, who have been responsible for numerous human rights violations.

    How has the government reacted to the protests?

    The government has handled this conflict in a quite regrettable way, by mainly emphasising its security agenda, criminalising protests and furthering a legislative agenda focused on punishing protesters, which reveals their lack of understanding of the nature of the protests, their demands and their urgency.

    The social agenda proposed by the government is quite weak. It does not seek to make radical changes to existing structures that deepen inequality and does not guarantee the rights of all people. The changes and the contents of the social agenda led by the government are not up to the protesters’ demands and their urgency. Its numerous initiatives and measures involve limited improvements, which are necessary but will not affect the structures that reproduce unfairness in our country; therefore, they only duplicate the same old short-term public policies that are not based on a rights approach and focus on the individual rather than on the needs of the thousands of families in vulnerable conditions.

    The latest reports speak of dozens of people dead and hundreds injured. Could you describe the extent of the repression and human rights violations committed during the protests?

    Since the protests broke out in Chile, numerous human rights violations have been committed by state security agents. These violations have been denounced by national and international organisations, but the state has tended to downplay them.

    It is essential for us to reiterate that at all times unrestricted respect for human rights must prevail, and that each case of violation must be investigated, resulting in punishment for the perpetrators and reparation for the victims. Civil society is key in monitoring and watching over these processes, to ensure that they remain transparent and foster accountability of the state.

    Data from the National Institute of Human Rights indicate that in 48 per cent of the observed cases of detention, detainees were protesting peacefully, regardless of whether or not they were occupying roads. Likewise, gases were used indiscriminately in 56 per cent of recorded cases, and in 60 per cent of the cases observed, force was not used in a graduated way, and was instead applied without prior notice and in the absence of any kind of dialogue. There were 2,727 documented cases of injured adults who were treated in hospitals, as well as 211 children and adolescents, and 241 people with eye injuries. There was also a series of human rights violations against people detained and held in police stations. The most frequent of these was the excessive use of force during detention, with 751 cases. Overall, 190 cases of sexual harassment or sexual violence were recorded, 171 of them being cases in which detainees were stripped naked.

    How have people and civil society organisations responded to the state repression and rights violations that occurred during the protests?

    We have responded without fear. Entire cities have shouted fearlessly in protest at the human rights violations that occurred during the past months. Many people have compiled testimonial material to make visible the level of exposure and violence they experienced during the protests.

    From civil society organisations the responses have been diverse, but generally speaking all organisations have called for non-violence and the establishment of new spaces for dialogue leading to the strengthening of a society based on social justice and fairness. Without a doubt, civil society organisations have played a prominent role, promoting the establishment of meeting spaces and helping present the demands of the citizenry. This was done through the creation of a large network of networks called the New Social Pact, which brings together more than 600 civil society organisations that have worked tirelessly to search for real solutions to substantial demands.

    The Community of Solidarity Organisations supports the principle of nonviolence and since day one of the protests we voiced the need for unrestricted respect for human rights. Even if it is not our field of work, we believe that this outbreak revealed how urgent it is to restructure the police forces. We faithfully believe in the data published by the National Institute of Human Rights, and we know that their work is conscious and rigorous, as is the report delivered by Amnesty International, so as civil society we will support from our field of work all actions aimed at bringing reparation for the rights violated during the protests.

    What immediate measures should the Chilean government take to overcome this crisis? What are the chances of this happening and a lasting solution being reached?

    A lasting solution would require a long process of construction and change including short-term, medium-term and long-term measures.

    The short-term and medium-term measures are related to the social agenda, which has three dimensions. The first consists in improving the quality of life through measures on issues such as health, education and pensions. The second dimension includes measures to end abuses by economic and political elites and close the gaps in justice administration between cases involving members of the economic elite and ordinary citizens, who face completely different sanctions for committing crimes: ‘ethics classes’ for the former and effective jail terms for the latter. The third dimension involves raising the resources that the state needs to implement a deep and powerful social agenda. Chile requires a tax reform to increase revenue and needs a much more efficient tax management system.

    The long-term axis refers to a constituent process whose main milestones have already been established: an initial referendum, the election of representatives and a ratification referendum. However, conditions guaranteeing participation by a cross section of people, equitable representation, gender parity, minority quotas and independent candidacies have not yet been achieved. Without these conditions in place, the legitimacy of the constitutional process will severely weaken.

    Civic space in Chile is classified as ‘narrowed’ by theCIVICUS Monitor.

    Get in touch with Comunidad de Organizaciones Solidarias through theirwebsite orFacebook page, or follow@ComunidadOrgSol and@nromo_flores on Twitter.

     

  • CHILE: Las protestas revelaron la falta de accountability de la Iglesia Católica

    Cristian Leon GonzalezEn 2018 se produjo en Chile una serie de protestas, que luego se extendieron a otros países, en reacción a las revelaciones de abusos sexuales perpetrados por sacerdotes católicos.CIVICUSconversa sobre la respuesta que ellas suscitaron con Cristián León González, vocero de la FundaciónVoces Católicas, una organización de la sociedad civil chilena dedicada a presentar la posición de la Iglesia Católica en la prensa y otros espacios públicos. Si bien no es representación oficial de la Iglesia, Voces Católicas cuenta con el respaldo de sus autoridades, y busca representar los puntos de vista de la institución en toda su amplitud y diversidad. Inspirada en la organización del mismo nombre del Reino Unido, fue establecida en Chile en 2012. 

     

  • CHILE: Protests reveal lack of accountability of the Catholic Church

    Cristian Leon GonzalezIn 2018, protests broke out in Chile, and then spread to other countries, in reaction to revelations of sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests. CIVICUS speaks about the response to this issue with Cristián León González, spokesperson of Fundación Voces Católicas, a Chilean civil society organisation dedicated to disseminating the views of the Catholic Church in the press and other public forums. Although it does not represent the Church in an official capacity, Voces Católicas is supported by its authorities, and seeks to represent the points of view of the institution in all their breadth and diversity. Inspired by a similarly named organisation in the United Kingdom, it was established in Chile in 2012. 

     

  • CIVICUS Joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    Submissions on civil society space– Afghanistan, Chile, Eritrea, Macedonia, Vietnam & Yemen

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 32nd UPR session in January 2019. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Afghanistan: CIVICUS, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization (AHRO), Civil Society and Human Rights Network and People’s Action for Change Organization explore the continued insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in the closure of space for civil society, including through targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, protesters and journalists. We further discuss violence against women and the desperate situation faced by women HRDs in Afghanistan who are subjected to a heightened level of persecution because of their gender and their human rights activism.

    Chile: CIVICUS and Pro Acceso Foundation (Fundación Pro Acceso) highlight serious concerns regarding the persistent misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Law to silence members of the Mapuche indigenous community advocating for land rights. We are also concerned by the lack of government commitment to amend legislation regulating the right to peaceful assembly and by the violent suppression of social protests, especially those led by the student movement and indigenous communities. 

    Eritrea: CIVICUS, EMDHR and Eritrea Focus highlight the complete closure of the space for civil society in Eritrea to assemble, associate and express themselves. We note that there are no independent civil society organisations and private media in the country. We further discuss how the government selectively engages with international human rights mechanisms including UN Special Procedures. 

    Macedonia: CIVICUS, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network and the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation outline serious concerns over the institutional harassment of NGOs in receipt of foreign funding since 2016. Despite a recent improvement in respect for civic freedoms, the submission discusses several restrictions on investigative journalists and media outlets. We also remain alarmed over smear campaigns against human rights defenders and critics of the government orchestrated by nationalist groups. 

    Vietnam: CIVICUS, Civil Society Forum, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), VOICE and VOICE Vietnam examine systematic attempts in Vietnam to silence HRDs and bloggers, including through vague national security laws, physical attacks, restrictions on their freedom of movement and torture and ill-treatment in detention. The submission also explores strict controls on the media in law and in practice, online censorship and the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the authorities.

    Yemen: CIVICUS, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Front Line Defenders discuss the ongoing extreme violence against and HRDs and journalists including regular abductions, kidnappings and detention in undisclosed location. We further examine restrictions on freedom of association including raids on CSOs causing many to reduce their activities drastically and even closed entirely. 

    See full library of previous UPR country submissions from CIVICUS and partners. For the latest news on civic space in all UN Member States, see country pages on the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Cultural barriers are lifting but legal and political obstacles still hinder gender equality in Chile

    Spanish

    CIVICUS speaks to Natalia Muñoz Castillo, director of International Affairs at the Observatory Against Street Harassment (OCAC), a Chilean civil society organisation that works to make public spaces safe and egalitarian, making them accessible to the most vulnerable, and specifically to women, children, adolescents and LGBTI people.

    1.Why an organisation dedicated to the issue of street harassment? Why is this an important issue in terms of women’s rights?
    While there are indeed other outstanding issues in which women’s lives and health are directly at stake, street sexual harassment is also a real problem in Chile. And it is an issue that is difficult to address because it is supposedly attached to our culture. For a long time it was considered to be part of our Latin American culture and upheld as “the way Chilean men are”, and therefore it was believed that there was nothing you could do to guarantee your safety in the street. We believe it is unfair for women to be second-rate persons and to be forced to use the public space in fear. What we try to do at OCAC is challenge preconceptions, take ownership of public space and promote change so that we can feel safe without being constantly on guard against the possibility of sexual assault. In Chile, giving a woman a “compliment” in the street is widely accepted, it is considered normal and natural; however, it actually violates the right of women to walk around safely. This practice has endured for many years, and in that sense it is “traditional”, but that does not make it acceptable. If it causes you fear and insecurity, and limits your prospects for the only reason that you are a woman – it makes you avoid certain routes, restrict your schedule, change the way you dress or move – then it amounts to gender-based violence.

    2. In which ways does the use of public space – that is, the restrictions linked to the understanding of the place that each is meant to occupy – relate to the broader problem of gender inequality?
    The female gender is generally associated with the private sphere. The privileged participation of males in the public sphere translates into better salaries, greater security in the streets and sexual freedom. When women dare to cross these barriers of patriarchy, societal norms immediately set the limits. If I, a woman, leave the private space and try to move freely in the public space, I become a target for violence. And society will blame me for whatever happens to me: it was my fault because I was in a place where I should not have been, because I was dressed in a way I shouldn’t have, or because I was out at a time when I should have been home. So gender inequality is visible both inside and outside the home. The Observatory focuses on what goes on outside, while other organisations focus on, for instance, sexual violence within the home, dating violence and other violations of rights that occur in the sphere of private or intimate relationships. In sum, OCAC focuses its efforts on addressing sexual violence taking place in the streets, and occurring when women seek to occupy a public space that traditionally, according to societal norms, does not belong to them.

    3. You have probably been told a thousand times: “Chile has a female president, what else do you want?
    That’s exactly right. And we reply: The fact that Chile has a female president [Michelle Bachelet, president in 2006-10 and re-elected in 2014] is no guarantee that all women in our society are being treated equally. In fact, the president herself is portrayed in the media in an extremely sexist fashion. Congress representatives such as former student leaders Camila Vallejo and Karol Cariola also receive sexist press coverage and public opinion also reflects these views. People refer to the president in demeaning ways by focusing on her weight or her body, which has never happened to male presidents. Even when they reach prominent positions in national politics, women are still subjected to violence linked to traits that have nothing to do with their ability to do their jobs. They are permanently questioned and assessed in terms of their “feminine” attributes and for their bodies above anything else.

    4. As feminist activists, have you and your colleagues faced similar stereotypes?
    I am also a teacher, and when I talk to my students about gender issues they often react by saying “but prof, you don’t look like a feminist!” It’s just that I don’t fit into their stereotypes. They say “but you are married”, meaning I am not a lesbian, or they point out that I have long hair, or that I wear makeup, or that I don’t mistreat male students but instead treat them all equally. This surprises them because their point of departure is the characterisation of a feminist as a very angry woman who rejects everything feminine and wants to vent her anger against men – in short, a “feminazi”.

    This conversation helps my students feel that gender issues are much closer to them and gives them a different point of entrance into feminism – by watching my actions, and particularly my emphasis on equal treatment. As representatives of a feminist organisation, we are subjected to public scrutiny, so we need to be careful of, for instance, the ways we refer to men and women. And we strongly insist that the current situation is not the fault of individual men, but of the patriarchal structure within which all of us, both men and women, have been raised.

    In fact, although there are many women in our organisation, and our directors are all female (for reasons of experience with these issues as well as trajectory within the organisation), ours is not strictly a women’s organisation, since many males also work in it.

    5. On its website, the Observatory does not define itself as a feminist organisation. Is that label still too much weight to carry?
    This was a discussion that we did have in the beginning. When the organisation was founded, in 2013, there was still some fear of the connotations the label could carry. Still then, being a feminist was not “cool” in Latin America, it was not in fashion, so the label was not all that desirable. But after a while we realised that what we were doing was grounded in feminism, and that we needed to claim the label and see what happened – and if it was not well received, then bad luck. So we started presenting ourselves as feminists, as we do on Twitter and Facebook.

    As our work began to take hold – our posters were there in the metro, our memes circulated on social media – we noticed feminism was becoming more popular among younger generations. Among young women, today it is almost unconceivable not to be a feminist. I may have a biased perspective, because I am talking about the people I interact with in my surroundings, but nowadays my students are very aware of what harassment is, they recognise gender differences and inequalities, they know that respect requires and understand what things should not be done… I am not sure I would say feminism is now fashionable, but at least it is more normal: you can say you are a feminist and you will not be attacked from all flanks. It is possible to have a meaningful conversation, and even to quote feminist organisations to support your argument… this may have something to do with access to information, which is much more open today. Internet access has educated the public on these issues.

    6. What strategies – advocacy, campaigning, mobilisation – does OCAC use?
    As an organisation we work in various fields, and we work in teams of professionals specialised in law, sociology and political science, communications and design, and psychology, pedagogy and social work, depending on the case. The International Networks team, which I lead, works alongside “sister” organisations in several Latin American countries: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Uruguay. In some of these countries, and particularly in Guatemala and Nicaragua, the situation is much more difficult than in Chile. Here in Chile, street sexual harassment usually takes less-than-drastic forms: you feel insecure and limited in your freedom, but phenomena such as gang rapes are rare, while they are fairly common in other countries.

    So we collaborate with our counterparts in these countries by producing joint campaigns at the regional level and supporting the communications work of our weaker nodes. For those countries where violence against women and girls is more serious, such as Guatemala, we have devised stronger awareness-raising campaigns. The demands we put forward for our governments to address are not the same everywhere: in those cases, for instance, rather than a law against street harassment more basic security measures are required, including protection against femicide. We try to be a source of support for these organisations, because they also feel much more abandoned by the law than we do. After all, civil society organisations mostly have one another for support.

    In turn, the Legal Advisory team provides legal support to victims of street sexual harassment, and it was also the one that drafted and promoted the Law of Street Respect (Ley de Respeto Callejero) that is currently under discussion in the Chilean Senate Human Rights Commission. The Communications team works in sharing experiences, making public denunciations and generating content for campaigns. We also have a Studies team whose research feeds into public debate, outreach efforts and campaigns; an Interventions team that works with communities, schools and public opinion to educate the public about street harassment, and also accompanies victims; and a Management and Projects team that develops alliances, seeks donations and guarantees funding for our initiatives.

    It is important to note that while we emerged as an organisation with a focus on street sexual harassment, which is therefore at the core of our work, we embrace the feminist demand in its entirety. We therefore have a clear-cut position on femicide and we support the #NiUnaMenos (“not one less”) campaign and the legalisation of abortion. However, street mobilisation does not rank high among our strategies: although we regularly join in mobilisations summoned by other organisations, OCAC itself rarely calls for mobilisation. Rather than massively taking to the streets, we focus on using to our favour a variety of platforms – social media, traditional media, institutional spaces, communications with elected officials – that are available for citizens to make themselves heard. We consider ourselves to be neither street feminists nor academic feminists, but we rather try to spread our message throughout society. So we try to be present in the media, in schools and universities as well as in streets, marketplaces and public squares.

    A recent campaign we took out there was #Notedavergüenza (“Aren’t you ashamed”). We addressed it to men, whom we invited to reflect on consent in order to understand that, in the absence of explicit consent, many behaviours that are relatively common in fact constitute sexual violence. Besides spreading it on social media, we took the campaign to street markets in order to talk to people about it. Our goal is to establish a dialogue, introduce our organisation to people and have them commit to making a change and spreading it.

    6. Have you faced any obstacles, cultural or otherwise, when doing this work?
    Cultural obstacles are there, but mostly among older generations. Chile was the last country in the region to legalise divorce, and is among those that still ban abortion under any circumstances. However, this is a legacy of the dictatorship (1973-1990) rather than a deeply rooted cultural trait. In fact, until the late 1960s Chilean women had access to therapeutic abortion, under lax conditions that made it relatively accessible. It was under the Pinochet regime that legislation went back to unmitigated prohibition, and this remained untouched as democracy was restored, among other reasons because the coalition that came to power and ruled for many years was either led by or prominently included the Christian Democratic Party. Thus the law remained aligned with Christian doctrine.

    While the law remained frozen in time, citizens’ mentality changed. And in some areas, and to some extent, this had repercussions on the law, which began to give way. This was the case of Law No. 20830, passed in 2015, which regulated civil unions for same-sex couples. This happened because the younger generation is more open on these issues than their predecessors. My parents’ generation grew up under the dictatorship, so they grew up in fear, and change does not come easy to them.

    In this sense, today’s obstacles are legal and political rather than cultural. Chile’s majority is nominally Catholic, that is, Catholic by tradition rather than out of actual conviction or regular religious practice. The majority of the population takes stances that are more open and tolerant than those of the Church, but the political class is more conservative than public opinion. The Catholic Church continues to wield power and its views are taken into account when decisions are made. That is why, for us, the Catholic Church remains a wall in our way.

    Civic space in Chile is rated as “narrowed” in the CIVICUS Monitor.
    • Get in touch with OCAC through their website, visit their Facebook page, or follow @ocacchile on Twitter. You can also sign to support the campaign against street harassment at www.respetocallejero.cl

     

  • Statement: Chile's adoption of Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights

    41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Pro Acceso and CIVICUS welcome the government of Chile's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome the government's progress in relation to the legislative framework governing  freedom of association and progressive initiatives to strengthen the participation of civil society.
      
    However, in our joint UPR Submission, we documented significant challenges with respect to the right to peaceful assembly both in law and in practice. In addition, the government has failed to create a safe environment for HRDs, particularly for indigenous people, who continue to face attacks and criminalisation.
     
    We remain concerned by the lack of commitment of the government to amend legislation regulating peaceful protest, which contradicts the Chilean Constitution and international standards. The Supreme Decree 1,086, which came into force in 1983, regulates this right and establishes procedures that in practice functions as a system of prior authorisation. 

    In practice, civil society has documented cases of excessive use of force by the police, including the use of teargas bombs, rubber bullets and hydrant trucks.  Between June 2016 and March 2019, the CIVICUS Monitor received several reports of police repression of protests, especially protests by students and members of the Mapuche community.

    In addition, we are concerned by the misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Law (Law 18,314 on counter terrorism policy) against members of the Mapuche indigenous community advocating for land and environmental rights. The legislation has been used in a "total of 19 emblematic cases, involving 108 individuals, mostly related to situations of Mapuche protests.” 

    Mr President,  Pro Acceso and CIVICUS call on the Government of Chile to take proactive measures to address these concerns and implement recommendations to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society, including signing and ratifying the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean known as the Escazu Agreement, whose negotiation process Chile lead since 2012, and which establishes specific obligations for the protection of environmental defenders.