Protests in Santiago Chile have seen an estimated 1.2M people take to the streets. Chile is in political upheval, the president replaced a large portion of his Cabinet following violent protests. This all began with a proposed subway fare hike.
A 3.75% fare hike, 30 Chilean pesos or less than 0.5USD was the spark. If you’re a low income family this amount matters if you’re already spending between 13-28% of your budget on transportation.
It’s not clear who burned the stations of Santiago’s subway but when 21 stations went up in flames, President Sebastian Piñera declared a state of emergency and a night curfew.
Public demonstrations have been peaceful apart from a few that have been met with violence. Massive protests are taking place across the country and they span socioeconomic classes. Policy changes are at top of the list along with the withdrawal of armed forces.
President Piñera reshuffled his cabinet in an attempt to solve the biggest political crisis since the country’s transition to democracy Pinera replaced eight key members of his Cabinet, including the Ministers of Interior, Finance and Labor, as well as the Secretariat of the Presidency, which is akin to the Chief of Staff. This did nothing to appease the protesters.
Santiago’s Metro is a Symbol for economic segrigation
Historically, Santiago’s Metro was a symbol of Chile’s prosperity since it was built in 1975. Chile has increased their GDP more than 1,000 percent in 30 years, while many in the region struggle. Although the metro is overcrowded and strained since it has continued to expand servicing more of the city. It has been applauded as one of the most important equity efforts. They have been conscious of adding extensions not only to the job centers in the business districts, but also to the low-income residential neighborhoods.
Even with this awareness the economic segragation exists, rich people often live together in one area and poor people in another. This area is usually further out with longer communte times. When the working class travel into the city for work, they can see the inequality, the difference in infrasutrcutre and living conditions.
But Santiago’s subway expansion also unveiled one of the city’s most intrinsic characteristics and something quite evident for most Santiaguinos: its economic segregation.
When the fare hike came students called for people to jump the turnstiles as a way to protest. Fare evasion has been common for years and has been a point of contention with the public transit system in Santiago. Angry teenagers turned fare evasion into a form of protest. “Evading, not paying, another way of fighting!” was a chanted.
More people got involved and the government remained steadfast, so hundreds of thousands of Chileans peacefully marched and expressed frustration with the inequality.
In an interview with CityLab, Paola Jirón the director of MOVYT, a Chilean inter-university mobility research center said: “
The protests in Santiago were triggered by the rise of fares, but the whole manifestation is much more complex. People became tired of living in an uneven society. We have people making a lot of money, but the majority are profiting very little from the Chilean success.”
The protestors didn’t attact other public institutions, they targetted the public transportation system because they perceived there was profit, that it was a symbol of an underlying corruption. The president has promised social and economic reforms to tackle issues at the heart of the unrest, including pension raises, affordable medical insurance, lowering the prices of medicines and stabilizing electricity prices.
Protests continue because many believe that it’s too little too late.
The Metro has also reopened, a few of the stops won’t be open again until March 2020.
Jiron commented: “Through our mobility, we weave together the inequalities that fragment our city.” This is true for Santiago and it’s true for many cities around the world. We can expect mobility to continue to be a source of political unrest.
Do you believe this is true for all cities? Is there anywhere in the world in which transportation does not highest economic segregation?