Chilean Government Must Respond to Protesters’ Demands and UN Must Investigate Abuses
International United Nations Watch (IUNW) calls on the Government of Chile to respond to the economic demands of protesters who have rallied across the country in recent weeks. Furthermore, IUNW also urges the United Nations to carry out an independent investigation of reported human rights violations relating to the protests. Demonstrators took to the streets to protest the lack of economic stability and low wages, the widening gap between rich and poor, in addition to low-quality public healthcare.
Good governance involves meeting economic demands and making effective improvements to the social and economic system. Yet Chile has experienced a recent upsurge in civil unrest, much of the anger increasingly directed at President Sebastian Pinera. Protests have turned violent with several deaths. Because of the protests, the government cancelled an international climate summit it had been due to host.
The protests began over raised metro fares which led to violent clashes and then triggered larger demands. Polls indicate 87% of Chileans favor reforms of the constitution, which has been in place since the advent of the 1973 dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet. The public has been calling on President Pinera, a billionaire whose approval ratings have fallen to 13%, to resign. Pinera has refused, claiming that while he accepts partial responsibility for the current economic situation, many of the underlying causes have accumulated over the last 30 years. The President also defended the introduction of increased security measures and the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency.
Reports have surfaced of excessive use of force and human rights abuses by the authorities. Of 319 complaints of torture and cruel treatment received by Chile’s National Institute of Human Rights in the last nine years, 45% were generated over the past three weeks. Furthermore, Enrique Morales Castillo, the President of Chile’s Medical College, has cited the number of serious eye injuries being recorded, stating that “the issue of eye loss surpasses any other period in the history of the country”, noting that “even internationally, no other country has ever reported this number of cases.” Amnesty International has highlighted the prevalence of the excessive use of force, while a network of lawyers report instances of sexual violence and rape against female detainees. President Pinera has denied that the violence is institutional, while stating that claims of human rights abuses would be investigated.
As protests and violent clashes have escalated, the Government of Chile should seek to restore the peace, avoid the use of excessive f force and meet the public demand for improvements to the economic system and to public healthcare. The UN should endorse this approach and seize the opportunity to implement its 2030 Sustainability Agenda in the country. Also, the UN should launch an independent investigation into reports of excessive use of force against protesters and the various human rights abuses committed against detainees.