VIDEO | Chileans of Port Douglas show solidarity with protesters

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Javi Navarro

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Chilean backpackers in Port Douglas gathered at Rex Smeal park with a sign that translates to "We are united. Chile awakens." Image: Javiera Navarro.
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About 50 Chilean backpackers got together in Rex Smeal Park on Tuesday to support the protests that have been going on in Chile.

The group sang Chilean chants as a symbolic act for around half an hour, and made a public declaration supporting the “awakening” of the country and condemning the acts of violence from the military forces.

The “cacerolazo” (cacerola means pot) it’s a demonstration where saucepans and pots are banged with a spoon as sign of protest.

Since the 1970s in Chile, during Salvador Allende’s government, the “cacerolazo” has become a way to make noise when the people want to be heard by the government.

This time, Chilean people are making noise for a whole different reason than in 1970.

Unrest exploded in Chile following an increase of the public transportation fares, a four per cent fare hike in subway fees, which represents 20 per cent of the minimum wage. 

By Friday last week, students called for a massive evasion of the subway in Santiago, the nation’s capital, as a symbolic protest.

“Evade, and not pay, in another way of fighting”, they chanted and some wagons where destroyed and vandals and crime appeared in minor scenarios.

But the strikes and protests are not about the public transportation; the protest is about inequality.

For around 30 years the country has developed to become one of the richest and most stable countries in Latin America.

But in its way, the economic growth (for some) has destroyed the just access to quality health care, education and pension, among other crucial societal aspects.

These protests are about the disparity of the wages and the still rising cost of living.

President Sebastián Piñera answered on Saturday by declaring state of emergency in some parts of the country, with a curfew.

This means that certain public liberties are suspended, with the purpose of maintaining public order. The military is ordered to guard the streets, and detain anybody who is out on curfew hours. 

This move of Piñera was criticized because of calling the state of emergency so quickly, without addressing the public first.

Nothing stopped the people from manifesting their social discontent and the transversal movement took more strength. Next day, the President said the country was “at war against a powerful enemy”.

On Tuesday night, Piñera finally apologised for decades of accumulated problems and announced social and economic reforms, like pension raises, affordable medical insurance, and stabilising electricity prices. On Wednesday, the protest continued.

Much of the protest has been peaceful, filling up the streets all over Chile with the songs, dances and the fighting spirit that characterises them.

As the military forces are in the streets, the vandalism and violence continues to take shops, houses and, sadly, lives. The death toll from the protest are in 18 to this day according to officials while thousand have been detained.

As Chileans in Port Douglas, we got together to join the cause of the “awakening” of Chile, an unequal country that now is joined by the general discontent, which was itchy to some for many many years, and now is clear to most.

We condemn the acts of violence from the police and military forces.

Watch the protesters in action at Rex Smeal Park:


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