Dear Members of Parliament,
As the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network, a network that has acted in solidarity with the peoples of Central and South America since 1981, we ask that you take action on the brutal state violence being exercised against the social uprising in Chile where people are demanding an end to the neoliberal economic system that was first imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship in 1980.
This social uprising against inequality, triggered by an increase in transit fares, has spread across the country and includes opposition to low wages, privatization of water, the rising cost of healthcare and education, and violence against Indigenous peoples. Demands include universal public healthcare, universal public education, pension reform and a return to the public ownership of water.
The uprisings have also drawn attention to the systematic violence exercised against the Mapuche, Indigenous people of Chile, who never ceded their lands but are excluded from decisions on resource extraction on their lands.
To counter the uprising, President Sebastian Piñera enacted an emergency law on Oct. 18 and sent the military into the streets to enforce a curfew with martial law. Soldiers have been using live ammunition indiscriminately on anyone found outside of their house after the curfew.
The United Nations has announced that they are sending a team to Chile to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against the protesters. At least 18 people have been killed since protests began on Oct. 19, hundreds have been wounded and more than 5,000 people have been detained or arrested. Hundreds of videos are circulating on social media that show the military and police taking brutal actions against Chileans on the street.
Canada is complicit in both the structural and direct violence unfolding in Chile. Canada has exported more than $7 million in military hardware to Chile in the last two years. Canadian mining companies are also active in Chile and benefit from the foreign investor protection agreements signed between Canada and Chile. Mine workers at Teck Carmen de Andacollo, a copper mine owned by Canada’s Teck Resources, have been on strike for weeks. The mine workers want an increase in wages that are closer to the national average for Chilean mine workers, investments in health services and better conditions for workers suffering catastrophic illnesses, and better retirement packages for older workers. The mine workers are also supporting the social uprising and calling for an increase in the country’s minimum wage. Canada is also linked to privatization of services that Chileans oppose. For example, the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan is heavily invested in the privatized water services in the country.
We ask that the government of Canada immediately:
1. Condemn the use of military force, and specifically the use of live ammunition against the civilian population;
2. Call for the end to martial law and the return of the military to their barracks;
3. Call on Chile to open a meaningful dialogue with the citizens of Chile on their demands.
Tracy Glynn and Maritza Farina
For the Atlantic Regional Solidarity Network