Listen to the Episode — 63 min
Alanis: Wena Wena Wena.
Clara: Mari Mari.
Alanis: October 25, 2019, Evade and resist!
Clara: 25 de Octubre, Evade y resiste!
Alanis: First half in English,
Clara: y en Español a partir del medio del episodio.
Alanis: Welcome to the first episode of Radio Evasión, a series of updates and interviews from the streets of Santiago, brought to you by the Ex-Worker. This episode consists of a brief overview of how things escalated from the student-led mass fare-dodgings to the first weekend of uncontrollable street conflicts and looting to the resistance happening now under martial law. After that, we have 4 interviews from the streets.
We can’t predict where this revolt will go, or if there will be more episodes, or how regularly we will be able to deliver updates, but as long as this current flame of revolt burns we will bring you reports from different sides of what’s happening—from the street battles in front of the presidential palace to the communal potlucks and cacerolazos in the neighborhoods to the nocturnal resistance to martial law on the periphery of the city. We’re going to focus on anarchist perspectives when we can, but we will be including anyone else we interview who we find interesting.
Clara: In short, everything is a chaos and so are we.
Alanis: If you are interested in helping, we could REALLY USE IT. Specifically we need Spanish to English translators, especially with a mastery of Chilean slang, and help with transcriptions—either in English or Spanish. Just holler at email@example.com
You can also send us ideas for interviews or the kinds of questions you’d like us to ask the rebels anarchists and other angry demonstrators on the streets of Santiago.
Clara: And now, let’s get up to speed. This first report was published at Crimethinc.com on Monday, October 21, right after Santiago exploded over the weekend with sabotage of metro stations, looting, and resistance to the state of emergency and military imposed curfew.
Alanis: No one saw this coming, nor that it would spread so far. People in Santiago did feel like tension was building, but not in the sense of social revolt. Rather, it was seen more in the aggressions between people—people having to commute for hours after their work or school day, fed up with having to squeeze tightly into a packed train or bus, overwhelmed with exhaustion. This anger and exhaustion manifested itself in conflicts between the exploited. For example, blaming and fighting other people on the train or bus, or scapegoating immigrants and the like, creating a daily experience of hostility, but no political group or organization was prepared for this kind of widespread revolt.
Since last week, there have been calls for fare-dodging (evasiónes) and sabotaging public transportation in response to the 30-peso fare hike. That wasn’t anything new. Whenever there are fare hikes, you see this kind of call for action. What’s different this time is we’re in spring, whereas past fare increases have been implemented in the middle of the summer without much of a response.
Beginning on Monday, October 14, organized and combative high school students began collective fare-dodging actions after they got out of school. These were massive and very effective. The Metro’s security guards weren’t ready for it, so the kids were able to freely hop the turnstiles and also hold open the gates for other commuters.
On Tuesday, October 15, the collective evasiones grew even larger and included even more high schools. By Wednesday, October 16, it wasn’t only the schools with a militant reputation that were involved. Lots of schools in poorer neighborhoods outside the city center got in on the action too, and that’s where Metro security guards began clubbing students. This was truly the spark, and it made the high schoolers even more resolute in their struggle. They organized mass fare-dodging evasiones for later that afternoon (because in Santiago, students get out of school a couple of hours before the workday is over) and more and more people joined in—if only because most people needed to get home and didn’t mind saving a little bit of money on their commute.
On Thursday, October 17, the response from the authorities and the Metro was to close certain stations, inhibiting people from being able to get home. Squadrons of police also began to occupy Metro stations, contributing to even more conflict and, through it, the destruction of metro infrastructure. In some cases, by sheer numbers alone, people were able to expel police from the metro stations.
On Friday, October 18 there was confrontation from the beginning of the workday on. Metro stations opened with more security guards and more police than usual, but people still staged mass evasiones, and in many cases were successful in getting onto the platforms. The day went on as usual until the end of the school day. Once school was out, the whole thing got out of anyone’s control. There was confrontation and combat all over the city. Metro stations were closed. Students occupied the tracks and destroyed Metro and bus infrastructure such as turnstiles. Three entire Metro lines were shut down. People began to do battle with the police, and a variety of conflict zones between people and police sprung up around the city.
Buses were burnt and used as barricades on major thoroughfares. Bus stops were torched. Even more fuel (proverbial and literal) was put on the fire as people began getting out of work for the weekend. Thanks to the almost complete halt of metro and bus travel within the city, masses and masses of people were out on foot—voluntarily and involuntarily adding to the numbers in the street conflicts. The police were losing ground and, as night fell, they began to attack with tear gas and water cannons. In retreat, the police fell back to the higher-class neighborhoods to ensure the revolt didn’t threaten the centers of wealth. The people, however, did not fall back, and went even further: looting and burning banks, supermarkets, corporate chain stores, pharmacies, metro stations, privatized health care offices, and government offices.
Ever since the evasiones started, everyone has been excited to support it, since it’s a tactic that anyone can use. There’s still a sense among the people that this has been a historic moment, at least in the social consciousness, and for the majority of people the revolt has put a smile on their face (not something you see often in Santiago). Although many haven’t agreed with some of the forms of struggle, the sound of cacerolazos rang out throughout the city late into the night.
All this led the government to declare, at 2 am Saturday morning, a State of Exception in the province of Santiago, which included mobilization of the armed forces and preparation for their deployment on the streets. The night went on with more burning and looting. The government made a mistake thinking that the announcement of troops on the streets would calm things down.
At noon on Saturday, October 19, more cacerolazos were called for, as well as protests in the main plazas of various neighborhoods, in protest of the military presence and repression (rather than just the fare hike). The soldiers escalated things by pointing their guns, loaded with live ammunition, at people, leading to more rioting. Masses of people took to the streets in cities where a State of Exception had not been called, for example Valparaíso, Concepción, Coquimbo, and Puerto Montt. This led to even more looting and, in response, more States of Emergency and curfews declared, to begin at 10 pm Saturday night. In large part, the curfew was ignored and people stayed in the streets late into the night. Looting and burning continued.
There are so many videos of police and military violence circulating. It’s difficult to say with certainty how many protesters have been injured because the news is flooded with police press releases about how many police were injured, without even mentioning the demonstrators they have hurt, hiding the true level of their repression. However, the number of injured demonstrators is definitely in the hundreds, including people hit by clubs, tear gas canisters shot at people’s bodies and heads, people hit at close range by rubber bullets, people run over by police vehicles, and so on.
I believe that since the beginning of this revolt, the students have been filled with a spirit of liberation and confrontation, which, thanks to compañeros who have combatted police in the past and destroyed the symbols of capital, has generated a collective unconsciousness in which, during moments like this, people know to attack authority. This has been demonstrated by the fact that the majority of the businesses targeted have been large multinational chains like Walmart, which itself has had around 80 stores looted and 10 burnt throughout the country. It is also seen in the widespread use of the anarchist symbol on walls, especially amongst the combative youth.
Clara: And now we have 4 interviews from the streets of Santiago on Wednesday, October 23.
NEOLIBERALISM IN CHILE
PROFE: I am a preschool teacher and I work for the Chilean state and the struggle now is centered mostly on the inequality of our economic system. There are no guarantees for good quality of life and what we have seen now is that the government’s proposals instead of appeasing the situation have set fire with gasoline to any agreement. The proposals he presented yesterday continue to be about giving the state subventions to private companies he never talked about giving back economics and natural resources to the people. For example the idea behind a generalized kindergarten fund is to generate a centralized fund for kindergarten education with the resources from all workers, be them independent or with salaries. 0.01% of your salary would be calculated and taken from your income and it would be put into a fund and administered by the AFP by the banks by the insurance companies so the AFP would be implemented from the time you are born until you retire. it basically means generating profit for companies once again. Once more with the proposals he is making the people are not benefitted at all. This is a struggle going back to my grandparents, my parents, me now, my daughter.. And let it be known that here in Chile someone from the middle class or lower class poor background will only see benefits if someone from our direct family, our parents dies and leaves retirement money. Only then can people say they received something to fix their house, to pay their debt to the state for education, to travel, to put money down for a house. Only if someone dies and they did not get to retire. That’s what happened with my father. My father died at 67 without having retired, and today I receive his inheritance. Part of his inheritance via an AFP and that’s not fair because that money doesn’t belong to me and I receive it as if it was a gift for my fathers death. That shouldn’t happen here or anywhere else. that’s inequality. I’m a professional and even then it’s not possible to live. forgive me for getting emotional, but this touches me, it touches all of us. This is not about the left or the right, nor national or international. This is a human thing, we are humans. You are not more valuable than me, I am not more valuable than someone else. We are all the same.
LOOTING AND NEIGHBORHOOD ORGANIZATION
Alanis: Who are we speaking with?
Santiago Anarchist: I’m a companero, an anarchist from Santiago, Chile, from this territory, let’s say, not by choice. Here briefly, contextualizing the situation, because you already know what this is about, probably, the reasons for this popular revolt. We understand this as something born out of many years of people being deprived, pushed by the high school students and the fare-dodging actions they did, and also inspired by the situation in Ecuador recently, where changes were achieved in a climate of popular revolt. It’s a very broad movement. There is the left, which belongs to no parties, let’s say. There is also a strong presence of anarchists who have been fighting in all possible ways since many years, present in the streets and syndicates and self-organized initiatives. So there’s a lot of things that lead to this moment, and I don’t think this would be possible without all the previous work from our comrades. Work around propaganda, street fights and a lot of other things. And there is also a popular left movement from the ghetto also, which has accompanied us many times, even if they have a different social project.
Alanis: And specifically here, in this neighborhood, you mentioned that there were interesting changes happening during revolt…
Santiago Anarchist: Yes, that’s very important, as the companera said before, a lot has changed in the daily life of the neighborhood. This is a popular neighborhood, I believe it was originally built for teachers, for educators, where at some point there was a very active political life, but it quieted down at some point, because of the age of people who are a bit older now. But, we know that there are many neighbors who are from the communist party, radical leftists at one level or another. And this has meant strong support. The neighbors tell you when the police are coming, they are taking care of each other, looking out for one another. The other day we made dinner to share with the neighbors, something that never happened in the five years that I am here. This is an incredible phenomenon, since most of the time, one distrusts people. Most people like the state, they like the police, and at any moment they could snitch on you. But up until now, it’s been a situation of support.
I think from the older people, there’s a kind of sensitivity about the dictatorship. It didn’t matter what your political position was, so much, because they saw what the military and the police are capable of doing when they are given these kind of liberties, and they don’t want to see the same thing happen. Initially, maybe they deny it and they just stayed home, watching the news on TV, but the news surfaced of torture, of killings. And I think there is a predisposition toward support and solidarity, because the reasons for this revolt have a lot to do with the cost of living. So this is the basis for everything. So whether you are anarchist or not, everyone has to pay higher fare prices, higher utilities. And you realize that you just live to pay the bills. And disobedience shows itself in the looting, for example. There’s a supermarket close by and the neighbors themselves went there to get food. People are willing to take other steps, people who seemed deeply respectful of the law, but with a bit of a change in the dynamic and the social environment immediately opt for going there, taking the things. Taking the cash register.
Alanis: And what was the vibe between people while the looting was going on?
Santiago Anarchist: I found it beautiful, there was a comrade telling people to cover their faces because there were cameras inside. I found it beautiful, there was a comrade telling people to cover their faces because there were cameras inside. On the floor inside of the supermarket, there was a lot of beer and wine from broken bottles and it was easy to slip so you had to make sure to walk slowly and carefully. You sometimes recognized people and smiled and greeted each other in this new and very particular situation. Most of the time I saw an environment of solidarity. There were cases, which can happen at any moment, of places where some people were taking on the role of police, people who were perhaps not so politicized, or not so conscious of the situation. But, there was a sort of self-regulation of what was happening. If you saw that someone was getting violent, you could go up to them to confront them, and you knew other people would support you. Something happened that I never saw before, though, that when people took TVs there were some people stopping them, taking the TVs away and burning them. I don’t know why, there was some sort of cultural thing going on there. I don’t really care if people take plasma TVs, but the looting of food and alcohol was totally permitted. Everyone could take food and drinks but no televisions. And clothes, also.
Alanis: Yeah, that’s interesting because in the last couple of days there’s been a big anti-television vibe in the streets. Is that what was driving people to discourage looting of TVs and stuff?
Santiago Anarchist: I think so, but I’m also speculating. But I do think it has to do with the fact that after the earthquake, the media really condemned that poor people were stealing televisions. Because for the media, poor people can only steal food. That’s the role, to cover their basic necessities. That a poor person steals a TV is not appropriate. And people really internalize this. There were also some excessive things, some person took a TV for example, and they took it from him and then beat him up. But this came especially from people who were acting a bit like the police, but still in a contained way.
Alanis: But… at the same time, looting food and basic goods was fine?
Santiago Anarchist: But stealing of food was totally accepted, so was this kind of self-care. There were people telling others to go carefully, there were others watching out in case of police. It was a whole day of looting. people were leaving the stores with full carts. It was beautiful.
Alanis: And, speaking of television, now on the 6th day of street conflict, some of the coverage in the Chilean mainstream press has changed right?
Santiago Anarchist: I think maybe today, yes, but I don’t have faith in it. In fact I was a bit surprised about how blatant they could be. All these days they were justifying the behavior and actions of the military. Even journalists calling up soldiers asking them why they were not in certain areas controlling people. And you could see a total lack of compassion, all the way from those at the bottom, like exploited camera people, to producers. They were talking about another world. Talking about a “coordinated movement” which has come to destabilize the state, conspiracies.
Alanis: But today was the first day that they recognized certain things that had happened, right? Can you talk about that?
Santiago Anarchist: Since yesterday, or the day before yesterday, they had already started acknowledging that there were dead people by the hands of the military. Before they were trying to frame all the dead within the context of the looting. They said people went to loot. They said that people that went to loot, they burned the store, and people died in the fire. They were blaming the people that were looting of that. The dynamic of looting that I saw had a very strong aspect of solidarity. It wouldn’t have happened that they let people stay inside, independent of whether or not they wanted to burn a supermarket. Which, I don’t think is that bad. But after taking everything. But I find it highly improbably. Slowly, slowly, they have been acknowledging some deaths. And today, something I find important, Megavision which is a very fascist channel, acknowledged that human rights institutions went to the Metro Baquedano station and found that it was being used as a space of torture after this declaration of a person who was tortured there and was rescued by the Red Cross, and who said that inside there were people being hung and tortured.
Alanis: So they like, arrested people during the demonstration and took them down into the station?
Santiago Anarchist: Yes, this is a place where they have a bit of impunity. Because it’s supposed to be a closed station, and there is also a police station in there. So a situation like that is possible. And slowly, we are getting news of cases that are clearly war acts.
GENERAL STRIKE IN SANTIAGO CENTER
Protester: Right now we’re in downtown Santiago, at the corner of Alameda with San Francisco, where, for the last hour or so, there has been a confrontation with the police, the carabiñeros. They’re teargassing us, they’re shooting less-lethal bullets at people’s bodies, shooting teargas directly at people. About 10 minutes ago they shot some people bad and as some volunteers from the Institute for Human Rights were trying to carry the injured away, a tear gas tank came by and gassed the area right where the injured were.
This is the democracy that they claim we have, this is the dictatorship we have, and out in the poblaciones, in the ghetto, they’re killing people.
Alanis: And are people withstanding the repression?
Protester: Everyone here—those with masks on, those without, everyone’s united, fighting the cops, because everyone knows this is much more than just a conflict in the streets. This is a fight for everyone to be able to live their life with dignity.
Alanis: And in the context of the last few days, how intense are the confrontations today?
Protester: So, this began last Friday—well actually, it started last Monday when the high school students began their collective evasions, or fare dodging. Friday was the first night with large street battles. Saturday had lots of action too. But I think Monday was the peak so far. Right now there’s a general strike that’s been called for for today and tomorrow, the 23 and 24 of October. I think people are going to hold the streets, keep pushing, and that this isn’t going away soon.
Alanis: Ok last question, being an anarchist, how should anarchists outside of Chile understand the use of the Chilean flag in the protests? And the demand for Piñera to step down? Is this more citizen-y than usual or is it just par for the course?
Protester: Look, it’s a mix. What’s happening in the street is there’s people with the Chilean flag but fighting the police, because at the same time not everyone here is anarchist. Not everyone understands that ideal. In my case, I’m not here with a Chilean flag, I’m not here with an anarchist flag, but in my heart I’m fighting for anarchy. If people are calling for the fall of Piñera I believe it’s more because of a kind of cultural thing. Because here the anarchist movement was basically swept away in the middle of the 20th century. And what’s happening now is really just the end of the transition to democracy.
Alanis: Anything else you’d like to add?
Protester: Just, for anyone listening to this from outside Chile, move, act, rise up, make your presidents shake in fear, make your kings and rulers tremble, because this has begun and it’s not stopping—it’s Argentina, it’s Haiti, it’s Ecuador, it’s Peru, it’s all of Latin America rising up. We’ll be out here to resist the Trans Pacific Partnership, on November 11, there’s the APEC conference in Chile also, with Trump, in October there was the conference of Interpol. They’re cooking up capitalism here and we’re going to cut the gas from the stove.
Alanis: Great, thank you!
Alanis: We haven’t received much information about Valparaiso, so if you could tell us a little about what’s happening there…
Valpo Anarchist: Listen, I think what’s happening in Valparaiso is a lot like what’s happening here, but out on the edges of the city. Not in the center.
In a great part, I think it’s because the armed forces there are from the navy, and there’s an attitude, an authoritarianism, that the navy inherited from the dictatorship. It’s really sinister and it influences how they treat people. I don’t know if anyone has died yet in Valparaiso, but there are a lot of peopled injured. In Van Buren Hospital, which is the regional hospital in Valparaiso, today there was a demonstration, yesterday too, over not having enough supplies to help the people injured from the protests or to help those in the hospital with chronic illnesses. Another side that I think is important, just like what happened here with the people whose homes have been raided and who have been arrested in the middle of the night, there was a kid active in the anti-pollution movement in a coastal community near Valparaiso known as Las Ventanas, which has a copper smelter. He was at his dad’s house and the cops took him out in the middle of the night, and there’s still no word from the police or from the military about where he is right now. He was studying sociology in the University of Valparaiso, an anti-pollution organizer in the Las Ventanas community, and right now it seems like he’s disappeared.
Alanis: Fuck. Ok, uh, the next question is just, if you can name anything moving you’ve seen—either beautiful or ugly.
Valpo Anarchist: In terms of something moving, something beautiful in the middle of all this shit has been the sense of community and cooperation amongst my neighbors. I didn’t know many of my neighbors before. I live in Cerro Alegre which is a part of town without much of a sense of community. For a while it’s been in a process of gentrification, you know, with lots of long time residents selling off their property to hip cafes, restaurants, businesses that cater to tourists. But I think with the practice of cacerolazos there’s been a bond created between the neighbors there. It’s a hill, and I live off the side of the hill so I see neighbors far on the other side banging on their pots, and even though we’re not in the street together, there’s a connection. It’s strange, but, it’s been beautiful hearing the banging of pots and pans from all the hills around Valparaiso. Maybe this seems a little hippie or cliché, but it’s been beautiful.
On the ugly side, seeing the soldiers and their aggression on the street. The first day was so violent—soldiers coming up commando style on the Anibal Pinto Plaza, which is a well known plaza in the center of Valaparaiso. They were threatening to kill people unless they moved, hitting people for moving too slowly or showing some attitude, it was hard to see. Really violent.
Alanis: Ok, and to wrap things up, who are we speaking with? And I don’t mean your name but your beliefs, where you fit into society and this struggle…
Valpo Anarchist: Lets see, well I had been living in Valparaiso for ten years, I wasn’t born there but at this point it’s home. Politically speaking my beleifs come from anarchism, I see the conflict we are seeing not as something superficial despite the superficial palate reforms the government is now trying to pacify us with. But these are structural problems that won’t be solved with half measures. From this perspective I understand that anarchism is not something that gathers a lot of followers in this social conflict even though anarchist ideas at a macro social level are better received these days by for example by Juanita my neighbor who lives down the street from me who may be Catholic, conservative, but is so infuriated by the systemic stealing from the state and from the capitalist system in general that in some way we can empathize and find ideas in common. From this perspective I feel the role of state or the state itself is in crisis, and is questioned there anarchist ideas could permeate the conflict in a more gentle, more critical, and more rational way. I think many people today are anarchist without realizing it. Especially with all the shit that’s happening and it would be really nice that they understood it that way without fearing the word, the ideology, or what being an anarchist entails. On the one hand, I’m afraid that this will end and everything will stay the same, but at the same time I have hope.. Well, I don’t like the word hope, but I find sustinence or energy in seeing that people understand that shit hit the fan and that they understand that the conflicts are bigger than what they appear, and that they understand that the solution does not lie in piñera, or Chadwick stepping down but rather in changing the general structure of society. And so I think Juanita who lives down the street from me who has probably looked at me with disdain during these ten years now can see me with more sympathy.
Alanis: And that’s it for the English half of the episode. If you speak Spanish, stick around for the original interviews we translated from and later you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org about all the things we got wrong. Or, better yet, sign up to help us translate interviews as we keep pumping out episodes. It’s hard to tell how much longer things are going to stay lit in Santiago, so if you don’t hear from us again…
Clara: Viva el proletariado, viva la anarquia, y viva la evasion! Y ya comenzamos con las entrevistas en español…