Chile protests sparked by transportation fees



Sally-Emma Calandroni, Managing Editor

What started as student-led demonstrations protesting a rise in public transportation fare prices has turned into the people of Chile revolting against their government. The president, Sebastián Piñera, has said they are at war and has declared a state of emergency in six cities in the capital, Santiago.

In early October, the Minister of Transportation and Telecommunication, Gloria Hutt, announced that Santiago will have a monetary rise in subway and bus fares; 830 and 710 Chilean pesos respectively, translating to roughly to $1.16 and 1 dollar USD. This started secondary school students, high schoolers, to start protesting.

On October 17th, protesters started evading the turnstiles at subway stations and didn’t pay for the use of transportation, dubbing this as “evasión masiva” (massive evasion). Students encouraged others to do so in an effort to reduce the fare prices. What started as a peaceful protest led to police involvement, and that is when it went downhill.

Police brutality has run rampant in response to the evasión masiva. The police have beaten, threatened, and tear-gassed the metro stations and the surrounding area. As of now, the protests have left 15 dead and led to the arrest of more than 2,600 citizens. The Chilean Institute for Human Rights said by Monday night it had registered 84 people injured by firearms.

Monday, protesters called for a general strike to bring attention to the inequalities and injustices that they have faced at the hands of their government and police force.

Chile has the most expensive public transportation in Latin America, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Chile also has the lowest salaries in the continent, the minimum pay in the country is 301,000 Chilean pesos (442 USD) and the average income in Chile last year was 517,540 pesos (517,540 UDS) per month. The overpriced bus fares in addition to the expenses of getting an education and healthcare have caused Chilean society to reach a boiling point.

Chilean political scientist Patricio Navia has said that Chile’s middle class feels alienated. “Piñera’s government has always been preoccupied with reducing poverty, and has also designed policies that help the rich, so the middle class feels abandoned,” he explained. “The middle class has been growing in Chile, but with a slowing economy, they feel like they were offered a path to the promised land and were never really let in.”