Chile: Union Protests Calling for Greater Social Spending Result in Violence
Chilean federal police clashed with demonstrators in the capital city of Santiago during protests in the final week of August. The Aug. 30 demonstrations, organized by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), resulted in with more than 750 arrests and 37 police officers wounded. The unrest revealed that at least a portion of the Chilean population is dissatisfied with the government of President Michelle Bachelet and its level of social spending. Conservative opposition leaders accused the government of backing the strikes, since groups allied with Bachelet's Partido Socialista (PS) organized and supported them.
Significant sectors of the Chilean left and civic groups have demanded higher expenditures from the government as copper prices have soared in the past few years. The Chilean government derives a large portion of its revenues from the state-owned copper company Corporacion del Cobre (CODELCO), and prices are more than triple what they were earlier in the decade (see NotiSur, 2006-02-24, 2006-09-08 and 2007-07-27).
As Bachelet has attempted to maintain a large budget surplus with CODELCO's increased profits, groups from copper contractors to activists critical of Santiago's troubled transit system have demanded that she spend more (see NotiSur, 2007-04-13). Most prominent among these protest movements was a large-scale strike by public school students last year, not long after Bachelet's inauguration, calling for legal reforms to the nation's education law and greater education funding (see NotiSur, 2006-06-23 and 2006-07-28).
Demands: higher minimum wage, pensions, benefits
The marches of Aug. 29-30 sought a greater increase in the national minimum wage, among other demands. The CUT, the country's largest labor confederation, called on Bachelet to step up her role as a Socialist president and reduce the neoliberal nature of the Chilean economy. Neoliberalism is a principle that views the free movement of trade and capital as the key element driving an economy.
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Publication information: Article title: Chile: Union Protests Calling for Greater Social Spending Result in Violence. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs. Publication date: September 28, 2007. Page number: Not available. © 2009 Latin American Data Base/Latin American Institute. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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