Despite a year of overwhelming demonstrations in Chile, including
a general strike launched yesterday, analysts say change is unlikely
due to the rigidity of the Chilean political system.
As Chile enters its second day of a general strike on top of
ongoing, two-month-long student demonstrations, analysts said the
country's growing protest movements are unlikely to win their
immediate demands because of a deliberately gridlocked political
Chilean cities have been overwhelmed by demonstrations this year,
starting with a rebellion in the southern Magallanes region over
rising natural gas prices.
In April, demonstrators marched against a planned hydroelectric
dam in Patagonia. For two months, a student movement has demanded an
end to profiteering in education, attracting hundreds of thousands
of citizens to near-weekly marches. The country's biggest
association of labor unions called today's strike to support student
demands and to demand better working conditions.
"In Chile, political crises have usually been ended with coup
d'etats," said Ricardo Israel, dean of legal and social science at
the Autonomous University of Chile. With no likelihood of such a
move, he said, "it's possible that after the environment of
demonstrations subsides, Chile will go on the same as before."
Strike supporters and opponents differed on whether yesterday's
strike was effective.
The government said only 5 percent of public-sector workers
stayed home and the biggest manufacturing group, Sofofa, said 99
percent of plants were operating normally. But the Santiago Metro
reported 30 percent fewer passengers than normal, reports The
Clinic, a local newspaper. Many government offices in central
Santiago were closed.
Some protesters burned barricades and blocked major streets,
while other strike supporters danced and sang on sidewalks. The
police responded to both aggressive and peaceful protests with water
cannons and tear gas.
Positions are hardening as the government finds itself
outmaneuvered while protesters remain powerless to affect change on
their own, said Armen Kouyoumdjian, a country risk analyst based in
Vina del Mar.
"You see the sort of things the right has been saying about the
students, that they are just Bolshevik subversive troublemakers, and
demonizing them and playing dirty tricks," he said, referring to the
center-right government of President Sebastian Pinera and its
supporters. "And the students and others have started smelling blood
and haven't budged much from their original positions."
The prior government, under President Michelle Bachelet, was able
to coopt a similar student movement in 2006 with promises of
dialogue, but Mr. …