Alto al SIMCE comrades here are following the CTU-school workers strike in Chicago, while some of our TSJ comrades are following the transportation protest in Chile. From Chicago schools and communities to Chile’s transportation, this system is not sustainable.
Yesterday, high school students In Santiago began a transit fare protest, urging people to evade the turnstiles in the metro. During the day today the evasión masiva caught fire, with students across the city joining and people taking to Twitter to support it. The movement seems both “loose and tight” (as one of our friends put it). There is no formal organization leading the call for the evasión, but many schools have seemed to join and they are coordinating through Twitter and other social media platforms.
By mid-afternoon, traffic in Santiago had collapsed. And the national confederation of student organizations, CONFECH (whose history dates to the early 20th century and that was in the forefront of the 2011 and 2015 university student strikes), called for a national strike Monday. By 4:30 PM, authorities had closed the main subway lines in Santiago. By end of day, the Guardian reported thousands jumped the fare barriers and police used tear gas on demonstrators. (Things are developing as we write this.)
Here is the update from our companer@s in Santiago, at this minute.
Two weeks ago the government announced an increase of $1,200 Chilean Pesos in the cost of the monthly transit pass. As our friend explained, “It’s like 5 cents a trip, 10 cents a day, 60 cents a week, and about $2.50 USD a month per person. But in the context of Chile, this is a lot. We already pay approximately $50 a month per person to commute by public transportation.” And the monthly pass is for two trips a day, 20 days a month, for just one family member. This does not count extra trips during the week, weekends, or multiple family members. They kept it lower for off hours and didn’t raise it for students, probably hoping they could avoid protest. Then the minister of the economy said the price was lower for those “that get up early,” since the fare for people who got on the train before 7 am was lowered. That meant getting up at 5:30 for many people. This was insulting, especially because the work week in Chile is 45 hours and there is a bill in Congress to reduce it to 40 hours with an important argument that people want more family time.
So although the fare hike doesn’t affect students directly, it affects their families, and students resisted. Also recent student protests have been repressed by the police, especially at Instituto Nacional (a Santiago secondary school) where they threw tear gas from the roof onto the students. The students were delegitimized so they found a way to protest that was much more effective. Women students seem to be in the forefront—¡Vamos Cabras! [come on girls!]
The protest has to be seen in context of the rising cost of living in a country that has been sucked dry by corporations and international capital since the dictatorship and neoliberalization that has gutted the livelihoods of the vast majority. Chile has one of the highest rates of income inequality in the world. Transportation spending is the second highest expenditure of households in regional capital cities in Chile. An average household in a regional capital spends about 170,238 pesos on transportation monthly (about $240.00 US dollars), which is equivalent to about 15.2% of their monthly budget and almost 10,000 pesos (about $14.00) more than the expenditure on housing and basic services.
Our friends tell us there have been calls for “evasión” before, but this has been the most successful one because people are fed up and the government discourse was insulting. Another factor is the decline of the transportation system. The metro used to be a comfortable fast means of transportation but it been degraded.
The CONFECH call puts this protest in context of a struggle for a new transportation system. They make clear the cost and quality of transportation is a national problem, especially in rural areas where transport is degraded. (Nationally, according to research from the Sol Foundation, 54.3% of Chilean workers earn less than 350,000 pesos [about $492.00] monthly. In the case of women workers, 50% earn less than $300,000 [around $422.00], and retired people struggle to survive on the extremely low pensions set up under the privatized system from the dictatorship.) The CONFECH condemns the government’s criminalization and repression of fare evasion when the real criminals and “evaders” are the private corporations and government officials that have enriched themselves from the transit system. They support the demands of the transit workers who are calling for nationalization of the transportation system and removal of police from the metro stations.
The CONFECH statement ends: Si! Evades $230 te llaman delincuente. Pero ¡si robas $300,000.000 te nombran presidente! ¡Adelante estudiantes y trabajadores, que esta lucha por un nuevo sistema de transporte recién comienza! [Yes! You evade $230 [pesos] they call you a criminal. But if you steal $300,000,000 [pesos] they appoint you president. Forward students and workers! The fight for a new transportation system has just begun!]
And we add, the fight for a new education system and a new Chicago is underway! Solidarity with CTU and SEUI-Local 73!
3 thoughts on “Students Shut Down Subway in Transit Fare Strike—¡Vamos Cabras! ¡Evasión Masiva!”
thank you for taking the time to post. learning so much. lebanon seems to be having similar protests as we speak as well, over hikes of medical care, flour, and phone services with the protesters calling for the prime minister and president to step down, military in the streets as well.