Attacks on journalists and clashes on the 50th-anniversary of the military coup
As previously reported by the CIVICUS Monitor, on 4th September 2022, an overwhelming majority of Chileans rejected the adoption of the proposed constitution designed by the most inclusive process in the country’s history. Following this, the path toward a new constitution was prolonged, and mainstream political parties led the way.
Once again, on 17th December 2023, the second proposed constitution was rejected, with the “against” option receiving over 55.76% of the votes. The current 1980 Chilean Political Constitution, which dates back to the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, will remain in force following the rejection of two proposed drafts in national referendums. President Gabriel Boric said that the constitutional process is over and “called on political forces to reduce polarisation and work within the framework of the current constitution to deliver on Chileans’ urgent needs.”
Attacks on journalists on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Pinochet Coup
On 11th September, journalist Javier Barría, a camera operator for the Mega television station, was shot and injured in the right cheek by an unknown and masked individual while reporting on violent protests in Santiago’s Villa Francia neighbourhood, near the presidential palace La Moneda. Police immediately transferred Barría to a hospital for treatment. Similarly, Héctor Saffie, a journalist for Channel 13, also reported being targeted with shots but was not injured. These incidents occurred on the 50th anniversary of Augusto Pinochet's ousting of democratically-elected President Salvador Allende (see below on freedom of peaceful assembly).
According to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the deputy secretary of the Interior, Manuel Monsalve, announced that the Chilean state would take legal action against those responsible for the shooting. Both IFJ and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have condemned these attacks and called on the authorities to urgently investigate and clarify these violent acts:
“Chilean authorities must investigate and hold accountable those who shot journalist Javier Barría and fired several times at journalist Héctor Saffie,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s program coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean.
#Chile🇨🇱: El camarógrafo Javier Barría fue baleado en el rostro mientras cubría las manifestaciones por el 50º aniversario del golpe a Salvador Allende.— FIP - América Latina y El Caribe (@FIP_AL) September 22, 2023
La Federación Internacional de Periodistas exige a las autoridades una pronta investigación que de con los responsables. pic.twitter.com/eCDtSPLyBw
Bill to protect journalists and media workers
As previously documented, in May 2022, Congresswoman Nathalie Castillo presented the bill on the protection of journalists and media workers (14964-24). In December 2022, the bill was discussed by the Culture Commission of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies, which approved definitions and principles of the norm. On 31st July 2023, it was approved on its first reading and returned to the Culture Commission of the Chamber of Deputies for its second report, which was issued on 22nd January 2024. Following the second report, the Chamber now has a thirty-day period to process the bill.
Congresswoman Castillo has highlighted the urgent need for legislation on the safety of journalists, emphasising that since the social upheaval of October 2019, there have been over 300 documented attacks against the press, with the majority of these incidents being perpetrated by state agents. However, it is reported that only 60 of these cases have been subject to legal proceedings. This situation underscores the importance of ensuring the protection of journalists’ rights and freedoms, and the need for robust legal frameworks to prevent and address attacks on the press.
March to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the military coup marred by violence
On 10th September, thousands peacefully marched through the streets of Santiago to the presidential palace and the general cemetery that houses a memorial to the victims of the dictatorship era. The protesters held Chilean flags and chanted slogans such as “Truth and justice now!” or “Allende lives!.”
The President of Chile, Gabriel Boric, joined the march led by the Association of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (Agrupación de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos, AFDD). Boric stated during the inauguration of a memorial at Morandé 80 Street, opposite the door of the presidential palace of La Moneda where the body of the socialist President was removed after the bombing of the Government headquarters, that Allende’s death was in defence of democracy and the rule of law.
At the end of the march, some protesters clashed with police, who used tear gas and water cannon to disperse them. This mostly occurred at the presidential palace of La Moneda, where a group of hooded individuals broke the glass panels surrounding the front of the Government headquarters and attempted to scale the walls and even enter the cultural centre. In response, the police (Carabiniers) halted and diverted the march. According to the EFE news agency, the police confirmed that at least 12 people were detained.
Later that day, hundreds of women gathered at La Moneda, dressed in black, silently holding candles and displaying a white banner with the letters ‘Never Again.’ The demonstration was organised by women’s and human rights organisations that united under the Women for Never Again platform (Mujeres x Nunca Más).
Miriam Astudillo, one of the women, said, “On every 11th September, we remember everything we have suffered and experienced first-hand with a brother of 20 years who was detained and tortured for a month. That is hard to forget.”
Cientos de mujeres rodean La Moneda en silencio, con velas y carteles con el mensaje “Nunca más”. La convocatoria es multitudinaria y has excedido con creces los cálculos de las organizadoras. El poderío de las mujeres chilenas no tiene límites💜 pic.twitter.com/BnhutLNxUF— María M.Mur (@mmartinezmur) September 10, 2023
Fourth anniversary of the 2019 social uprising
On 18th October, marking the fourth anniversary of the 2019 social uprising, protests took place across the country. The government deployed over 4,000 police officers, with the majority—3,000—assigned to the capital. According to reports, some demonstrations in Santiago, Valparaíso and Concepción ended in clashes with the police.
In Santiago, around 200 people gathered and the demonstration was characterised by confrontations with the police, resulting in at least 20 protesters detained and three injured. In addition, 11 law enforcement officers were injured.
#Chile En Plaza Dignidad se realizan protestas a 4 años de la Revuelta Social en contra del neoliberalismo y la injusticia social. ¡¡Libertad a todos los Presos Políticos!! #18Octubre 18-O pic.twitter.com/VOL1fcqUH3— El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (@elderechoalapaz) October 18, 2023
Protesters take to the streets amidst the escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict
Following the breakout of the Israel-Palestine conflict in October 2023, several peaceful demonstrations were held throughout Chile to show support for Palestinians. Some of the higher-profile protests included:
- On 14th October, over two thousand people gathered in Constitution Square, the heart of the civic district of Santiago, and called for peace. “The call made is for an immediate end not only to the violence currently being witnessed, but also for the international community to take concrete actions to ensure that Israel complies with international law. This marks 75 years of the violation of Palestinian rights,” said Diego Khamis, Executive Director of the Palestinian Community.
- On 19th October, dozens of people carrying Palestinian flags and banners protested outside the Israeli embassy in Santiago to denounce the ongoing attacks in the Gaza Strip.
- On 4th November, thousands of people in Santiago marched to denounce “crimes committed by the Israeli occupation” and in solidarity with Palestinians. The protest brought together various sectors of civil society, human rights organisations, politicians and artists, who began the march at the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral and ended at the Palacio de La Moneda.
- On 30th November, a vehicle caravan protest with over 200 people circled through the centre of Santiago, commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. The caravan was organised by the Palestinian Club, which represents a significant portion of the Palestinian community in Chile.
- On 11th December, hundreds of people gathered at the US Embassy in Santiago, in response to the call for a Global Strike. The protest featured Palestinian flags and messages urging an end to the violence in Gaza, as well as calls for the US to cease support for Israel’s actions, following their recent veto of a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The police broke up the protest with water cannon.
Chile is home to the largest Palestinian population outside the Middle East, with approximately 500,000 citizens of Palestinian descent. Chile was the first Latin American country to establish a Representative Office with the Palestinian National Authority, based in Ramallah, in April 1998. Since that time, and through the work of this office, relations have deepened, with significant milestones including Chile’s recognition of the State of Palestine in January 2011, the official visit of the President of the Republic, Sebastián Piñera, in March of the same year, and Chile’s co-sponsorship of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 67/19, passed on 29th November 2012, which granted Palestine the status of non-member observer state in the United Nations.
The country’s President, Gabriel Boric, has repeatedly expressed support for Palestinian human rights since his inauguration in 2022, even recalling its ambassador to Israel for talks after Gaza attacks.
2023 Santiago Parade: the march for equality
On 11th November, over 100,000 people peacefully took to the streets of Santiago to urge the authorities to make strides in protecting the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. The march was organised by the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual, Movilh).
In its 2022 report, Movilh affirmed that although there have been some improvements, such as the repeal of laws that criminalise same-sex relationships and other forms of consensual adult conduct, and the introduction of new protections for people who experience discrimination based on their gender identity or expression, there have been few advances in public policies to support these rights.
March to denounce violence against women
On 25th November, thousands of people peacefully rallied in Santiago to demand action by the government to protect women, marking the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Women shouted, “No Means No” and "Not one step backwards.”
“Twenty-five years ago, I was battered and raped by my husband, and I have been coming to these marches for many years to fight for the rights of women who are going through the same thing and don’t have a voice, because, at one point, I too lost my voice,” said Verónica Álvarez, one of the protesters.
According to the Chilean Network Against Violence against Women, there have been 48 femicides reported in 2023.
Selk'nam people recognised as one of the main indigenous ethnic groups in the country
On 19th October 2023, Law 21606 was promulgated, incorporating the Selk'nam people among the main indigenous ethnic groups recognised by the State, following a four-year legislative process in Congress. This recognition has a special significance as it constitutes a first act of justice and redress for this people who had been declared extinct by the State. It also modifies Article 1 of the Indigenous Law by introducing the term “peoples” to refer to all legally recognised indigenous groups, bringing this existing legislation in line with international standards.
“We are no longer extinct for this country. We can say it calmly: we are Selk'nam without anyone recriminating us, denying us representation. I feel that the work has been done well. We are a human group that has worked for many years, and seeing this result and being with the people who could reach it has been wonderful. Grateful to the ancestors, my family, the advisor, so many people who supported us on the way, and happy to bring this good news to my land, Tierra del Fuego,” said Covadonga Ona, President of the Selk’nam Community.
According to the 2003 report of the Commission for Historical Truth and New Deal, between the last decades of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, the State’s colonisation policies led to the extinction of the Selk'nam families, whose ancestral territory included the entire island of Tierra del Fuego.
¡Ya entró en vigencia la Ley que reconoce al Pueblo Selk'nam!— Ministerio de Desarrollo Social y Familia (@MinDesarrollo) October 19, 2023
Hoy se publicó en el Diario Oficial la Ley 21.606 que incorpora al Pueblo Selk'nam entre las principales etnias indígenas reconocidas por el Estado.
La entrada en vigencia de la ley es un nuevo desafío para el… pic.twitter.com/7pKYfXMnPk
The government bans the right to strike in 61 companies considered strategic
On 23rd September 2023, the government issued a resolution determining the companies whose workers will not be able to exercise the right to strike for a period of two years, as established in Article 362 of the Labour Code.
The prohibition, contained in Article 362 of the Labour Code, states that workers in companies, whatever their nature, purpose or function, “that provide services of public utility or whose paralysis would cause serious damage to health, to the country's economy, to the supply of the population or national security” may not strike.
This is the first list created by Gabriel Boric's administration. Of the 106 companies that applied to the Ministries of Economy, Labour and Defence for inclusion in this category, only 61 were successful in obtaining the prohibition of paralysis. This is a significantly smaller list compared to previous years, with 100 companies being qualified as strategic in 2017 and 76 in 2021.