Santiago de Chile : when revolt ignites the walls and dogs bark to the death of “pacos”

Santiago de Chile, in the heart of the protest district

Santiago du Chili, du haut du Cerro San Cristobal. On aperçoit à l'est de la ville la Cordillère des Andes et ses sommets enneigés (Photo Tess C)
Santiago de Chile, from the top of Cerro San Cristobal. The snow-capped peaks of the Andes mountains can be seen east of the city (Photo Tess C)

Santiago de Chile, after 45 days of near-paralysis of economic activity; with protests, riots and  violent repressions, is finally taking a deep breath. On this hot and sunny spring morning in late November, the city goes about its business as if nothing had happened. La Alameda (Providencia Avenue), topped by the impressive Cerro San Cristobal (on the other side of Mapocho River) showing of the protest only the equestrian statue of General Baquedano covered in grafitti, Plazza Italia *.

*Plaza Italia renamed by the demonstrators Plaza de la Dignidad (Dignity Square). Plaza Italia, a real hub in the center of Santiago, is the usual place for Chileans to gather for improvised or planned celebrations, demonstrations and as well major sporting victories. This is the place in Santiago where parades are held for the rights of students and workers. It has become quite naturally, during the last 7 weeks, the neuralgic point of the contestation.

So early in the morning, few people, alone, Plaza Italia, the equestrian statue of General Baquedano colorful with graffiti brings together some young protesters (Photo FC)
So early in the morning, few people, alone, Plaza Italia, the equestrian statue of General Baquedano colorful with graffiti brings together some young protesters (Photo FC)

Chile nov. 2019 Obelisco Plaza Italia camp (FC Photo)

Plaza Italia, Obelisco flanked by the statue of President Balmaceda who suffered the vengeance of the protesters. In the distance, we can see the Cerro San Cristobal which dominates the city at 880 m (Photo FC)
Plaza Italia, Obelisco flanked by the statue of President Balmaceda who suffered the vengeance of the protesters. In the distance, we can see the Cerro San Cristobal which dominates the city at 880 m (Photo FC)
Sur La Alameda, Parque Bustamante, couple d'amoureux (Photo FC)
On La Alameda, Parque Bustamante, some camps and a couple of lovers (Photo FC)

The obelisk, flanked by the statue of President Balmaceda, did not escape the vindictive action of the protesters. The Bustamante and Forestal parks start here, as well as the popular streets Pio Nono and Vicuña MacKenna. The shy cleaning with a karcher water cleaner seems here anachronistic as there is so much to do. The smell of tear gas is everywhere. The botilleras are open along with the sellers of Completos Italianos, a hot dog with avocado, tomato and mayo (the trilogy of fast food in Santiago) occupy the streets.

Cette obélisque de la Plaza Italia est le support idéal pour les manifestants qui exprime ici la haine des pacos qui ont assasiné et mutilé en toute impunité (Photo FC)
This obelisk of plaza Italia is the ideal support for the protesters who here express the hatred of the pacos who have assailed and mutilated with impunity (Photo FC)
Ici, sur l'un des pans de l'obélisque de la Plaza Italia, l'imagination est au pouvoir (Photo FC)
Here, on one of the swathes of the obelisk of Plaza Italia, imagination is in power (Photo FC)

Palacio de la Moneda, obligatory passages of demonstrations

Chili nov 2019 manif in front Moneda (The Associated Press)

In front of the Palacio de la Moneda, the first demonstrations of the day parade past. That of the 28th, very impressive will take place at 5pm. Most of the traffic lights were torn off. Not a policeman in sight, no soldiers either. The city delivered unto itself. Then, it is the students, these demonstrators so much criticized by the power who take care of the circulation (red diamond in the hand: Pare / Sigue). Their faces uncovered or encapuchados (hooded). No traffic jams. Our driver raises his window, a few pesos of mutual help for the movement exchange hands. Everywhere bilboards announce La Sylphide a ballet production by Peter Schaufuss. It runs from 26th November to 2nd December at the Municipal de Santiago (National Opera of Chile) prices from 3.80€ . And we went between 2 demonstrations!

Et pourquoi pas un ballet, La sylphide qui se joue à l'opéra de Santiago pendant les événements (à partir de 3,80 €). Ici sur le côté de la Monéda, rue Morande (Photo FC)
And why not a ballet, La Sylphide that’s playing at the opera of Santiago during the up-rising (from € 3.80). Here on the side of the Monéda, rue Morande (Photo FC)
Ce palais de la Moneda, incroyablement intact malgré les quelques 50 jours de contestations, garde le souvenir du coup d'état de 1973 où l'armée aidée de la CIA, permet au général Pinochet à prendre le pouvoir. Le président en titre Allende se suicidera dans son bureau (Photo FC)
The Moneda palace, incredibly intact despite the 50 days of protests, holds the memory of the 1973 coup d’etat in which the CIA’s assisted army allowed General Pinochet to take power. President Allende commited suicide in his office here (Photo FC))

Understand everything about the Chilean crisis in 3 minutes of reading

To go through this amazing city at the end of November 2019 is first to catch one word. It appears everywhere, it screams on the walls, it ignites buildings, it congugates with all the hatred, it’s pacos (cops): nos estan matando (they’re killing us).

Mata pacos (mort aux flics), qui se graphe sur les murs de la Universidad Academia de Humanismo Christiano proche du quartier Italia (Photo FC)
Mata pacos (death to the cops), which is strewn on the walls of the Universidad Academia de Humanismo Christiano near the Italia district (Photo FC)

In the heart of Santiago, Plaza Italia, the nerve center of the protest, the ten kilometers of Alameda, the main avenue of Santiago * are impregnated with the trace of the demonstrations. Graffiti, stencils, posters with the most unbridled imagination cover everything that can be covered. The words are violent. They reflect the extreme brutality of these events which follow each other without weakening for nearly 50 days in a strong smell of tear gas. Most of them have been brutally repressed with spilling of blood, leaving hundreds of victims;  amputees, hangings, rapes, missing persons (Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International at the end of November were talking about systematic violence: torture, rape, mutilation by the police, with 23 dead, five killed by police, 8100 arrests and 240 eye injuries caused by lead shot).

*The Avenida Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins colloquially called Alameda, is the main avenue of Santiago. It measures ten kilometers, starts at Central Station and ends at Plaza Baquedano. It is on this huge avenue that one finds the Palace of La Moneda (residence of the president), the Santa Lucia hill, the University of Chile, and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. Line 1 of the metro travels in its entirety from Pajaritos to Escuela Militar.

"they can take our eyes off us but they'll never take away our voice" (Photo Tess C)
“they can take our eyes off us but they’ll never take away our voice” (Photo Tess C)
La photo des victimes des pacos est affichée partout dans la ville (Photo FC)
The photo of the victims of the pacos is displayed all over the city, most of them blinded by the use of fearsome lead balls. (Photo FC)

These dogs called mata pacos (Cop killers)

Faced with these pacos, a determined youth! But as incredible as it may be, it’s the presence of dogs leading the parades. They are in the front lines facing the police “Negro mata paco, santo patrono de los manifestationes”. They have become emblematic during these days of riots, the walls are covered with their effigy and the demonstrators even mask their faces.

Les chiens sont en premières lignes des manifestations. Certains sont devenus des héros pour leur courage et leur haine des pacos (Photo du manifeste)
‌These dogs called mata pacos (Cop killers) are on the front lines of the demonstrations. Some have become heroes for their courage and hatred of pacos. They are present on the walls: “continue to bark!” … (Photo of the street manifest)Dogs are on the front lines of the demonstrations. Some have become heroes for their courage and hatred of pacos. They are present on the walls: “continue to bark!” … (Photo of the street manifest)
It all starts calmly with this first demonstration of the day led by a dog (Photo FC)
It all starts calmly with this first demonstration of the day led by a dog (Photo FC)
Le chien El Negro Matapacos est devenu l'icône des révolutions et des révoltes dans le monde.
The dog El Negro Matapacos has become the icon of revolutions and revolts in the world.

The dog El Negro Matapacos symbol of the social revolt in Chile

Since the beginning of the events, dogs have become symbols of social protest in Chile. This is the memory of El Negro Matapacos, a legendary dog associated with the massive protests of the student movement in 2011, and those of 2012 and 2013. It was a black quiltro dog (bastard in Chile) recognizable with a red scarf tied around the neck. He stood at the front of the parades, constantly barking at the men in uniform amidst water spray and tear gas. His reputation is world-known from Tokyo to New York where he is depicted jumping a turnstile from the subway to protest last November against the police crackdown on a young black man. When in Santiago, the statue of General Manuel Baquedano, Plaza Italia was degraded by the demonstrators, a petition quickly circulated: replace the soldier thrown to the ground by the statue of El Negro Matapacos that became an icon of revolution and rebellion in the world.

*The monument in Baquedano is flanked by two characters: “Libertad”, a woman holding a wreath on one side and on the other, a soldier whose statue was torn off.

The democracy of the rich, the dictatorship of the poor

Never has a democracy experienced such a divorce, a separation with such violence (The democracy of the rich, the dictatorship of the poor could be read on the walls). How could the Chilean youth strongly supported by all the oppressed classes still bear this unfair model born in the jolts of a misguided military dictatorship. It is that of Pinochet that ended in 1990 but left behind him, 3200 dead and missing while he died in bed in 2006 at 91 without ever being convicted. As a result, an ultra-liberal un-tested model and a democracy (vaunted by the elite) so insecure that it sent not the police but the army and tanks (followed by a curfew) to the streets of Santiago during the first demonstrations. Unheard of since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship.

No son 30 pesos, son 30 años!

It all started with an inconsiquential small nothing, the refusal to pay an increase in the metro ticket. It was followed on the night of October 18th, by a veritable explosion of anger (from high school students and university students): ransacking more than seventy metro stations (the most modern in Latin America), banks, the Enel electricity company buildings, all burned. No son 30 pesos, son 30 años! replied the demonstrators. Faced with the popular surge, Sebastián Piñera (President of the Republic from 2010 to 2014 and again since 2018) panicked. Was he able to really feel the exasperation of the Chilean people towards his government? This billionaire businessman is none other than the incarnation of the Chilean elite in all its liberal arrogance. Did he not build his fortune during the Pinochet era? When he became aware of the extreme gravity of the situation, it was already almost too late: si acabo tu tiempo, viene el estallido, retorts the graffiti by the demonstrators.

Station de métro Baquedano, Plaza Italia (ligne 1 et 5) ou ce qu'il en reste (Photo Tess C)
Baquedano Metro Station, Plaza Italia (line 1 and 5) or what’s left of it (Photo Tess C)

Finally, a revision of this constitution inherited from Pinochet

Promises, this president has already made a lot : a raise for basic pensions, lower prices of medecines, freeze the price of electricity, lower salaries of members of parliament, higher taxes for the richest echelons  … But what about the demand of unions with a minimum wage of at least 500 000 pesos (637 €) instead of 301 000 pesos monthly (383 €) *? And how long can it be forgotten that in this rich country, about 1200 individuals hold and control themselves 10% of the national wealth? Finally, yes finally, a historic agreement was signed on November 15th for the revision of the Pinochet Constitution, inherited from the dictatorship. It will be put to a referendum in April 2020. A last measure dating  from December 3rd, Sebastián Piñera decided to grant an exceptional bonus of 50,000 pesos (57 €) per child for the most vulnerable families, ie some 6 million Chileans out of the 19 million inhabitants.

Fuego a la constitucion Pinochetista (Burn to the Pinochet 's constitution) Photo Tess C.
Fuego a la constitucion Pinochetista (Burn to the Pinochet ‘s constitution) Photo Tess C.
L'église n'est pas épargnée : scandale sexuel (Eglise complice pédophile !, Porcs ! Curés violeurs !) Des églises pillées et incendiées (Photo Tess C)
The church is not spared: sexual scandals (Pedophile complicit Church!, Pigs! Priest rapists!) Churches looted and burned (Photo Tess C)
Dans les réseaux sociaux circulent plusieurs Photos de ce jeune homme baptisé PareMen. D'autres ont préféré l'appeler capitaine Alameda ((BASTIÁN CIFUENTES ARAYA)
Several photos of this young man named PareMen circulate on social networks. Others preferred to call him Captain Alameda (BASTIÁN CIFUENTES ARAYA)

 Everything is privatized in Chile.

In Chile, half of the workers earn 400,000 pesos (€ 510) or less per month, while the cost of living is equivalent to that of a European country, explained the newspaper Le Monde, the analyst Marco Kremerman adding that in recent years, a problem has also particularly worsened: that of the indebtedness of the population. Of 14 million adults, more than 11 million are in debt. But how could one live here otherwise? Education, health, pensions … and even water: everything is privatized in Chile. It is against this system that the people revolt, against the universities with exorbitant registration fees, against pharmacies, accused of maintaining an agreement on the prices of drugs, against the private pension funds charged to make the money grow allowing wage savings to provide workers with a funded retirement pension, but which are illegally used extensivelyduring the transition. It is against them that flourish the most popular slogans: No + AFPs (Down AFPs) aimed at Directors of pension funds accused of making huge profits by distributing only low pensions.

The monster event of November 25th.

So far, nothing seems to put an end to the crisis with regard to the historic mobilization of 25th November. Rampage, looting and burning of businesses continued in several cities across the country. It is a gigantic event that manages to gather in Santiago, 1.2 million people (about 7% of the Chilean population) Plaza Italia and on the Alameda, the avenue that leads to the presidential palace (La Moneda). And yet, for the first time, the president admitted excessive use of force against protesters. He also asked his government to hold a first meeting with the representatives of the “Platform of Social Unity”, a collective of social and trade union organizations behind many calls to protest. Meanwhile, the Chilean peso was devaluing (today, 1 € = 785 Chilean pesos). $ 20 billion was injected to curb its downfall (and the promise to create 100,000 jobs); a fall due to both the anxiety of the markets in the face of a social crisis that has not subsided and also to the fall of the international copper price, of which Chile is the world’s largest producer. Another consequence, the Chilean government gave up hosting the summit of the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation forum (Apec) mid-November and especially the COP25 climate conference transferred to Madrid.

If on this prestigious Alameda, almost nothing seems to be spared, alone in its dazzling whiteness the Moneda, the presidential palace (where President Allende committed suicide), remains miraculously intact. Respect for the institution, no, he is under good guard! But beware ! Chil, through violence has just turned a page of its history and nothing will be like it was before.

journey through the scent of tear gas

The contrast is striking! Starting from Barrio Italia with its tree-lined streets and low-rise houses, this is probably Santiago’s trendiest neighbourhood (antiquaries, art workshops, avant-garde clothing and decoration boutiques, theatres, trendy cafes…).

"Le droit de respirer en paix", une promesse qui attendra dans ce quartier sur l'Alameda (Photo FC)
“The right to breathe in peace”, a promise that will await in this district on the Alameda (Photo FC)

The historic heart of Santiago, the setting for the protest

On the outskirts of barrio Italia, av. Condell (where the French Embassy is located) leads right to the Alameda (av. Providencia, Parque Balmaceda) and Plaza Italia, the nerve centre of the protests. You only have to follow this huge avenue past Obelisco Plaza Italia, to cross Plaza de la Dignidad (Plaza Baquedano) and then continue on Parque Forestal to Bellas Artes.

Av. Condell 65, l'ambassade de France, à deux pas de Plaza Italia, là aussi les manifestants s'exprime ! (Photo FC)
Av. Condell 65, the French Embassy, a stone’s throw from Plaza Italia, there too the protesters are speaking out! (Photo FC)
Museo Bellas Artes, là où l'anticapitalisme se montre le plus mordant (Photo FC)
Museo Bellas Artes, where anti-capitalism is most biting (Photo FC)
L'Universidad de Chili (établissement public) à deux pas de la Moneda. C'est le foyer le plus engagé dans la contestation (Photo FC)
The Universidad de Chile (public establishment) is a stone’s throw from the Moneda. It is the most committed focus of protest (Photo FC)

From here, via Miraflores Street, we reach Cerro Santa Lucia, a hill that rises at 629 m, in the heart of the historic district of Santiago (a double staircase, erected by the Chilean architect Victor Henri Villeneuve leads to Castillo Hidalgo). Joining the Alameda Bernardo O’Higgins, it is impossible not to stop at the Iglesia of San Francisco and its adjacent convent, arguably the oldest colonial buildings in the country (1622). Finally, once the Universidad de Chile, founded in 1842, Chile’s main institution of public higher education, arrives in Plaza Libertad, in front of the Palacio de la Moneda. It is the obligatory crossing point for all the demonstrations that have been marching in front of this huge building of brilliant whiteness and which no tag so far has managed to tarnish.

In the shadow of the Moneda

La Moneda c'est aussi un centre culturel très appécié des chiliens (Photo FC)
La Moneda is also a cultural centre popular with Chileans (Photo FC)
A l'ombre de la Moneda (résidence du président), om improvise une conférence de presse sur le prochain défilé (Photo FC)
In the shadow of the Moneda (president’s residence), improvisation of a press conference on the next parade (Photo FC)
This little café corner between two buildings, calle Morande on the side of the Palacio de la Moneda, seems to be the favorite place of relaxation of the officials opposite (Photo FC)
This little café corner between two buildings, calle Morande on the side of the Palacio de la Moneda, seems to be the favorite place of relaxation of the officials opposite (Photo FC)

“La liberté guidant le peuple”

Looking closely at this sign on the obelisk of Plaza Italia, would it not bear some resemblance to Delacroix’s painting: Freedom Guiding the People. How many times has this revolutionary song “El pueblo, unido, jams ser-vencido” (the people, united, never will be defeated) resounded during these demonstrations?

"Nous somme la génération qui n'a pas peur" affirme cette affiche placardée sur l'obélisque Plaza Italia (Photo FC)
“We are the generation that is not afraid” says this poster on the Obelisk Plaza Italia (Photo FC)
Cette Rosita perdue, les pacos n'auront pas à la craindre ! (Photo FC)
This lost Rosita, the pacos will not have to fear it! (Photo FC)

One Comment Add yours

  1. amazed6 says:

    Reblogged this on amazed and commented:

    The wine can wait! My visit to Santiago de Chile made me react to the crisis that this country is going through. Here is my journey through the scent of tear gas on the Alameda, from Plaza Italia to the Moneda Palace, an avenue that concentrates all the protests. 3 minutes of reading to understand what is wrong in one of the richest countries in South America (article that will also be published in Spanish and English).
    Have a good read.
    06 38 47 35 00


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