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Social groups, unions demonstrate, strike in Chile on November 8; further demonstrations likely

The Central Unit of Workers (CUT), the largest union in the country, organized nationwide demonstrations on November 8 against President Sebastián Piñera’s proposals toward reforming the private pension system and other labor and education initiatives. Student groups and social organizations opposing the private pension system and market-oriented policies also took part in the demonstrations. In Santiago, protesters initiated their activities in the city center at Plaza Italia (Square) and ended with an event at Plaza Los Héroes, near La Moneda Presidential Palace. As previously assessed ahead of the demonstrations, turnouts in the 10,000 were witnessed. While no scuffles were recorded in Santiago, security forces evicted demonstrators in Antofagasta. Unions leaders have reportedly stated that more demonstrations will take place if the government does not meet their demands.

The demonstrations come against the backdrop of mounting concern surrounding economic policies, which are already damaging President Piñera’s popularity. According to the Criteria pollster, in October the government’s approval rate diminished by 11 points, downgrading from 54% in September to 43% in October. In this context, anti-government demonstrations over the pension system and other issues were recorded as recently as October 24 and October 31. While Congress is debating a tax reform, oriented toward reducing corporate taxes to purportedly boost business activity, opposition groups claim that such measures will have a negative impact on wages, undermining workers’ rights. Coupled with long-standing grievances toward the private pension system among left-leaning sectors of society, market-oriented policies will continue to trigger demonstrations.

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