Chile's government is extending a curfew in the capital for a third straight day. Shops and businesses have been looted and set on fire, and metro stations vandalized and closed to the public in widespread demonstrations over economic inequalities, living costs, and rising debt in the usually stable country. What started as a protest against the rising of the price for subway tickets in the capital city Santiago escalated into deep-seated anger among ordinary Chileans who feel they have been excluded from the country's economic rise. Thousands of demonstrators took part in a massive protest in Santiago's Plaza Italia Monday, banging drums and pans and calling for the ousting of conservative President Sebastian Pinera, in protests that have paralyzed one of Latin America's biggest cities. Clashes between protesters and security forces have led to the deaths of 11 people, with eight killed on Sunday in the most deadly day of demonstrations. Many of the deaths occurred during looting when supermarkets were set on fire. See a report of the most recent events here: https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/22/americas/chile-protests-inequality-curfew-intl-hnk/index.html
Karen Anderson, from EPES Foundation, one of Global Ministries partners in Chile, narrated how the EPES team is in constant contact via WhatsApp - monitoring, sharing information, and trying to understand the short and long-term implications of this situation. They are also in contact with health promoters and other community organizations that they work with. Also, Karen shared with the Area Executive for Latin America and the Caribbean how the leaders and members from various churches and ecumenical organizations are gathering to talk about the situation and strategize on how to make sure international organizations and churches are aware of what is happening and speaking out on behalf of human rights. Churches and ecumenical organizations are circulating declarations to denounce social and structural violence. You can read one of the declarations here: https://www.vaticannews.va/es/mundo/news/2019-10/violencia-en-chile-obispos-reconocen-profundo-malestar-social.html
Rev. Dr. Daniel Godoy, Dean of the Theological Community of Chile, another of our Global Ministries partners in Chile, shared an analysis of the present crisis in the country. “The situation Chile is currently living - not only in cities where the government declared a state of emergency, but also far and wide - is the byproduct of exclusionary policies. It’s inhumane, based on injustice, of self-enrichment, the pure capitalist individualism, the lack of justice, equality, and solidarity. Chile is no longer a copy of the happy Garden of Eden. I even think it never was, despite the desire of the national anthem and its people.”
Doctor Godoy was emphatic in his assessment of the situation in Chile as one that goes beyond the increase of the fee at the Metro. He said, “we see how the country privatized itself: copper or lithium mines, water, hydroelectric power plants, even the pension accounts. We are not even the owners of our roads, forests, salt flats, glaciers, and transportation, to name a few. All of this has brought our country to a stranglehold of suffocation and hopelessness. The social manifestations are, in part, expressions of that reality. It’s not something particular, it’s not something minor - these are manifestations against the model, systems, of the abuses and even more important, the style of governing. I do not share or accept the vandalism or criminalization with which the situation has transpired. I surely lament the damage and destruction of public and private property. I profoundly lament the destruction of Metro stations and buses, as well as damage to personal property. Nothing justifies the damage and destruction caused, and I distance myself from the manifestations through these practices and methods. I am not in agreement with the destruction and violence with which some sectors have acted. I’m also not in agreement with the government’s response, the presence of the military, and their tanks through neighborhood streets in a declaration of the state of emergency and even less the imposed curfews. All of these events are the result of the lack of capacity to govern, to truly listen to the social demands, and determination to polarize the country.
The Dean of the Theological Community of Chile ended his words by saying: “As an evangelical pastor and president of a theological education institution, I can only manifest my commitment in search of a just society, where there are space and quality of life for everyone. I raise my voice with evangelical sisters and brothers in Chile and the world to pray and accompany us so our country will wholeheartedly hold individual rights and justice. I also raise my voice to the mandate of the Teacher of Nazareth, who invites us to be the salt of the earth and light to the world. I invite evangelical sisters and brothers, students, and especially those of theology, pastors, deacons, presbyteries, bishops, to pray for our country, our continent, to continued to be in solidarity, to celebrate the Word, and to hold the sacrament of this day, the day of the Lord, we raise our prayers to our Good God so law and justice may reign and that in all, the Holy Spirit will guide our steps, our words, and actions.”