Chile: Seeking to order the house before Trump arrives

The upcoming international summits that will take place in Chile are a central element to understand how the events of the coming days and weeks can evolve.

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The events of Chile in the last three days have generated surprise, both in the country and in the region. The national protest has no obvious leaders, nor delegates or spokespersons. A protest that cannot be controlled is, from the government's point of view, more dangerous than a general strike or a mobilization called by previously recognized social organizations.


The government's response was to return to the image of September 11, 1973, as if we had never woken up from that day: with the curfew and the deployment of the military in the streets the worst memories of the entire Southern Cone were revived. In the last few days the armed forces acted in some cities with notorious violence, but in others they remained in a more passive position. In the latter situation, the soldiers were a matter of mockery by the population. Because young people, especially, are no longer afraid.


This makes the situation much more complex and dangerous in the context of the scenario of the next two months in Chile. Because the protest must be framed not only in the short term, that is, in recent actions after the rise in the price of transport, but in the medium term: in the framework of the upcoming international summits that will take place in Chile. The international agenda in the protests is scarcely visible and yet, it is a central element to understand how the events of the coming days and weeks can evolve.


This year the international agenda entered the Chilean agenda from several angles. On the part of social organizations, there was strong protest against the Transpacific Partnership (TPP11) throughout the year, which generated an unthinkable effect in terms of Chile's own history: for 10 months they have been able to stall the approval of a Free Treaty Agreement (FTA). The TPP11 found its first major stumbling block in Chile, where, despite being the country with the highest amount of FTAs in the world, the movements managed to register the rejection of the treaty through a plebiscite, with the participation of more than 580,000 Chileans.


On the part of the government, the attempt to situate itself as a player on the international agenda led Sebastian Piñera to offer his country as host of two major international summits: the APEC forum, which brings together the countries of the Pacific basin and will take place on November 16 and 17; and the Conference of the Parties (COP25) on climate change, in December. The holding of the APEC summit means that Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, as well as other leaders from the 21 member countries, will be present in Chile in less than a month.


The arrival of Donald Trump is decisive to understanding the escalation of violence and militarization that may be experienced in Chile in the coming days. This fact already has a precedent in the region. Only last year, the G20 summit that took place in Argentina showed an unusual deployment of security forces. What's more, Trump's arrival in a country implies that, months before, the national forces are coordinated by the CIA in security operations. The Chilean government has already committed 4,000 police (carabineros) from across the country for the operations. This means that the main objective is the security of the US president, not of the citizens of the country, whose activities are paralyzed by security operations.


In addition to the presidents, more than 15,000 people will arrive in Chile for the logistics and security work of the summit. They will be accommodated in 15 hotels in the city, which will have special security. Carabineros will have a transversal task: hotel review, intelligence plans, emergency work, among other things. In short, keep order. Of which today there are no guarantees in all of Chile.


And only 2 weeks later, the COP25 will be held, where, although Donald Trump will not be present, thousands of young environmentalists will be the protagonists, those who today are staging in one of the most dynamic mobilizations worldwide. The presence of the young Greta Thunberg is already confirmed for these events, as the spontaneous leader of an international tide of young people who are demonstrating with direct actions all over the planet. COP25 will also bring together 20,000 people from 197 member countries.


The international events of the coming weeks in Chile are crucial to understanding the escalation of violence that street protests can take in the coming hours throughout Chile. For Donald Trump to arrive, Piñera must show a country in order. Otherwise, he could cancel the visit, which in the government’s pro-US agenda would be seen as a failure. This may imply an escalation of militarization that results in cleaning the streets of protesters in the main cities in order to finally "pacify" the country. Or perhaps in a rash of sanity the government may understand that, in pursuit of its objective of the international agenda, it is convenient to give greater social guarantees and open a dialogue, even if only at the level of promises, to calm the internal front. According to the latest announcements about security reinforcement, it seems that the scenario will be the first. If so, we can expect a strong police and military presence in the streets for the next few weeks, until both summits pass.


Whatever the case, social coordination is increasingly necessary in the face of these international forums and their impacts at the national level. It is imperative that the People’s Summit that will take place parallel to both events be filled with Chileans, but that they also have a strong presence of the organizations and committed academics of the region, in order to show strong solidarity with the process of struggles in Chile.


 - Luciana Ghiotto - Researcher at CONICET / Argentina, Universidad Nacional de San Martín (UNSAM). Coordinator of the Platform “América Latina mejor sin TLC”. Contributor of the Transnational Institute (TNI).


Published in Spanish on October 21st in Radio Universidad de Chile-
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