Listen to the Episode — 140 min
SUPPORT OUR DOCUMENTARY
Ex-worker shitworker: Hey Ex-Worker listeners. Sorry to just barge in like this, we didn’t have time to make a fancy plug, but we have a proposal we hope you’re going to like. This is probably our last Radio Evasión audio report, and…. basically we’ve come to the conclusion that words are not enough for what’s happening in Chile. The way people are getting organized in their neighborhoods, in their affinity groups, the courage and especially the care you see during the conflicts with police, and the way people carry a history of resistance here, memory of their fallen comrades, and how they arm their stories with meaning, the art that saturates the walls of this city…we think it’s something you need to see.
So, for the first time in our 7 years as a podcast, we’re preparing to switch gears and make a movie, a documentary film. But, we can’t do it, like, we seriously can’t, without your help. So we’re asking for your support getting our hands on camera equipment, computer equipment, SD cards, batteries, cloud storage, stuff like that…
Chile was one of the first countries to go through a transition to neoliberalism, kind of like a laboratory for the global economy. But now, capitalism is transitioning again, away from neoliberalism. Outside of Chile this has mostly favored far-right figures like Trump and Brexit. We want to make a film that will show that this crisis in neoliberalism isn’t just an opportunity for nationalist strongmen, but instead an opportunity to start questioning capitalism itself, to question the state and patriarchy, to start building a world that isn’t ordered by authority and competition, but by freedom and cooperation. We want to spread the inspiration and the lessons that the revolt in Chile has to offer, because a revolt either spreads, or it dies.
And we want to start soon, because there is a lot on the horizon. The school year begins at the end of February, and that means student mobilizing. Then there’s International Women’s Day on March 8; Day of the Young Combatant on March 29; May Day; the president’s annual speech on May 21, and the Mapuche new year in June. It’s tradition for all those dates to see action in the streets, but the date we anticipate to be most decisive will be April 26, the day of the plebiscite. Depending on how that goes, history really could be up for grabs, and that’s why we’re making this pitch now.
So, that’s the big idea. We swear we wouldn’t be wasting your time on this if we didn’t think it could really make an impact, but how much impact we can make depends on how much support we can get, because pivoting from podcast to video won’t be easy, it requires a lot more gear. So, after much ado, here’s what we’re looking for:
-A Panasonic Lumix g95 camera, or any other camera that shoots in 4K with a decent stability and a good auto-focus -A GoPro with a waterproof case -A powerful laptop or desktop Mac with plenty of RAM for video processing -SD cards -External hard drives -Cloud storage -Batteries -Zoom lenses -Lens cleaner -A lens protection filter -A full-face 3M gas mask, with extra cartridges! -A monopod and/or a shoulderpod -A digital recorder and decent boom microphone -Lavalier microphones and a receiver -Motion graphics and subtitling volunteers -Any kind of hookup or discount on international airplane tickets -And, possibly, soundtrack music
If you have any of that kind of equipment to spare, or if you’re generous and enthusiastic enough about our proposal that you’d be willing to help us purchase new equipment, please get in touch with us at email@example.com. We’re prepared to accept donations in North America, Europe, and South America, and we’ll also have that full wishlist published in this episode’s shownotes.
We’ve decided to forego the kickstarter and gofundme route for this project because we just wouldn’t feel right having an open fundraiser for a documentary while so many comrades in Chile need money for medical and lawyer expenses as a result of their participation in the streets. So, we also wanted to mention that one piece of movement infrastructure that is severely lacking in Chile is a legal, public way to raise money from outside of the country. If you know any lawyers or NGO accountants or anyone with knowledge of Chilean law and banking, please put them in touch with us to set something like that up. That said, if you are just SO enthusiastic about donating money towards a CrimethInc documentary but don’t have the time or capacity to purchase items from our wishlist, we’re not in a position to turn down cash donations.
Ok, thanks for listening to our long pitch, and remember that the most important thing you can do to support this kind of uprising is to spread anti-capitalist and anarchist revolt to wherever YOU are. It was SO meaningful to comrades in Chile when the fare-dodging actions in New York used Matapacos and evasion imagery, not to mention all the inspiration they’ve taken from Hong Kong and Rojava and France and Ecuador. We don’t just want your donations, we want you to find each other and to fight together. And now… Radio Evasión.
Alannis: Welcome back to probably the last episode of Radio Evasión, from the Ex-Worker.
Clara: And happy new year! It’s 2020 and we can see clearer than ever that it’s time to smash capitalism and abolish the state. I’m Clara.
Alannis: And I’m Alannis.
Clara: Whatever you take away from this episode, do not walk away thinking it’s the last Radio Evasión because things are slowing down in Chile. While we were previously unsure of how long this revolt was going to last, we are now certain that it’s going to explode again when students go back to school at the end of February.
Alannis: Meanwhile, it’s a hot hot summer in Santiago. It’s less like things are slowing down and more like certain patterns are emerging. Fridays continue to be the most concentrated days of protest, and in this episode we’ve got coverage from the streets for all over December, New Year’s Eve, and the first week of 2020.
Clara: And with the demonstrations getting a little more routine—again, don’t take that as a four-letter word—people have had more time to pour work into their neighborhood assemblies. Many of these have hit their stride, regularly hosting concerts, workshops, and weekly working group meetings for efforts like cooperative food purchasing or neighborhood propaganda. The neighborhood assemblies vary in terms of how much they focus on autonomy versus the demand for a constitutional assembly, but in general they have served as spaces where a culture of resistance has flourished.
In addition to the neighborhood assemblies, assemblies around specific kinds of work or affinity have started too. Just over a month ago a new defense committee for the prisoners of the revolt was founded, and later we have an interview with one of the participants. However, most of this episode’s interviews are focused on the newly founded anarchist assemblies that have been hosted in Concepcion, Valparaiso, and Santiago, the three largest cities in Chile. And, our last interview is with an anarcho-syndicalist health care workers union.
Alannis: But, speaking of supporting the prisoners, there’s a day of solidarity being organized for February 15, with a focus on tattoo fundraisers for the prisoners of the revolt. If you’re interested in organizing a fundraiser in your town, just email firstname.lastname@example.org The organizers are aiming to confirm the roster by February 1 so they can have a list of participating cities on It’s Going Down by the first week of February.
Clara: And lastly, before we get started, just a quick reminder that we really, really are depending on any resources or equipment you can donate to make it possible to film our documentary about the upcoming season of revolt in Chile. Get in touch with us at Podcast@crimethinc.com if you have any way of supporting the project.
UPDATE FOR DECEMBER, PART ONE
Alannis: And now, let’s get caught up to speed on what has happened since our last episode.
The beginning of December saw a variety of attempts by the Chilean state to quell the protests. Right after our last report at the end of November, President Piñera announced a plan to speed up the graduations of 2,500 new cops. In addition to the new recruits, he also announced the reenlistment of 1,300 retired officers. The entire police force in Chile is just under 60,000, so this is an increase of over 6.5%.
On December 2, the ruling class’ attempts to blame the protests on Cuba and Venezuela got a boost from none other than US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who vowed that Washington would support countries trying to prevent unrest in the region from, quote, “morphing into riots.” Mighty Morphin’ Power Rioters!
Clara: Oh boy… so, you may think the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rioters is a joke… but you’ll see… just hold that thought.
Alannis: Uhhh… ok. Anyway, the American Secretary of State’s words were vague, but a few days later Chile’s Subsecretary of the Interior signaled what this kind of “support” could look like. In an interview with CNN, he indicated that the government is collaborating with the police forces of Spain, Germany, and Colombia to look into additional kinds of anti-protest weapons, like colored water that marks protesters and sound cannons.
The news of potential new weapons in the hands of the police fueled demonstrations on December 3, International Day of Disabled Persons. People of all kinds of mobility with wheelchairs, crutches, and white canes converged on Plaza de la Dignidad, and the hundreds of eyes that the police have maimed were especially present, either on signs or chants or in the crowd itself. Some of the signs confronted the ableist language that’s common on the streets, like one that read, “The government isn’t blind, it’s murderous.”
Clara: This is a good time for us to do some fact-checking on a figure we included last episode. We said that 200 people had lost eyes so far, but as of December the government’s own National Institute of Human Rights says there are over 300 cases of eye damage, while just over 20 people have lost significant vision in an eye. There are also cases, like that of Gustavo Gatica, who lost both eyes. Police left him blind. So, our figure that 200 people have lost eyes so far wasn’t precisely correct, although we think 300 cases of eye damage and over 20 lost eyes is still appalling. And besides the cases reported by the National Institute of Human Rights, there are surely other cases that have not come to light or that were dealt with quietly to keep sensitive information out of the state’s hands.
Alannis: The December 3 demonstration was especially significant given the cancellation of Teletón, which normally takes place around the International Day of Disabled Persons. Teletón is an annual telethon that raises money for children with disabilities. It’s one of the most watched television events every year in Chile, and its host, Don Francisco, is one of Latin America’s biggest celebrities. There are lots of memes bragging about cancelling Teletón along with the COP25 and APEC summits. We have to be honest here: at first it was a little confusing for our crew why people in the streets were excited over the cancellation of a fundraiser for children with disabilities, until it was explained to us that one, it’s a way lots of corporations evade paying taxes and otherwise wash their money, and two, it’s an undignified event where families parade their children as helpless objects who depend on charity, whereas the reality is that the capitalist structure of health care in Chile is the foundation of the problems the Teletón alleges to alleviate. No one’s health should depend on the whims of the rich. It should be no surprise that Teletón started in 1978, just a couple of years after the government adopted the extreme free market ideology of Milton Friedman. All that explanation of Teletón is just to help explain that it was powerful to see thousands of people with disabilities flooding Plaza de la Dignidad with their own messages, right at a time when Chileans are normally glued to their televisions, watching comedians and pop stars present an image of disability as helplessness.
On December 4, on top of the state’s efforts to seek more cops and more weapons, Chile’s House of Representatives passed an anti-looting and anti-barricade law, sending it to the senate for approval. This law, along with an anti-masking one, was part of the package of repressive legislation that the president proposed at the beginning of November, after the first couple of weeks of revolt. While the law is named the anti-looting law, it in fact criminalizes a very broad array of normal protest activities—at least, normal for Chile. For example, it criminalizes, in the vaguest terms, blocking traffic with any kind of material.
The law would not have passed without the votes of the leftist Frente Amplio coalition, whose supporters felt especially betrayed. There was one viral meme with someone asking a fictionalized Frente Amplio congressperson, “Hey, so the president has a 4.5% approval rating, how’s that going?” and the Frente Amplio guy responds, “Oh it’s no big deal, we’re still passing his laws all the same.”
Clara: Left or right, we can’t depend on those who wield state power to protect us from it.
Alannis: Just days after approving the anti-looting law, the social repercussions forced Frente Amplio representatives to ask for forgiveness from their constituents, pathetically claiming that they had been “trapped” into voting for it and that they now regret it.
But it was too late for apologies, and since then demonstrators, upon seeing Frente Amplio politicians on the street, confront them, yell at them for their betrayal of the people, and have even run them into their homes and thrown water on them.
The popular response and anger over the anti-looting bill was enough that on December 9, the senate was forced to not approve the law, instead saying they will redraft it and take out the parts they consider “unnecessary.”
Both the anti-looting and the anti-masking laws are still in congress, being drafted and considered, but without any kind of vote scheduled yet—almost certainly waiting for a lull in the mobilization in which to pass them.
To give an idea of idea of how widely rejected these anti-protest laws are, Unidad Social, the coordinating body that includes participation from over 200 unions and social movement organizations, denounced them in no uncertain terms, saying that they, quote, “see the laws as an act of war,” and that they defend, quote, “the right to self-defense against political machinations.”
And even after the anti-looting law was sent back by the senate, one particularly outlier congresswoman, but a congresswoman nonetheless, entered a hearing with a balaclava on, shouting “Everyone against Piñera,” and later in the day tweeting, “I love you kids with all my life. Thank you primera línea,” referring to the frontline protesters who clash with police.
So to sum up, the first half of December saw the Chilean state add more cops, attempt to add more laws, and increase their collaboration with other repressive governments.
Clara: But, what the Chilean state wasn’t counting on was demonstrators’ enthusiasm for rioting on significant dates
Alannis: It’s true, Chilean anarchists really love special dates… March 8, March 29, May 1, May 21, September 11…
Clara: …and after two weeks of the state on the offensive, December 13 could not have come at a better time. Chile, like most countries around the world, uses the day/month/year convention of writing dates, so December 13 is 13.12, meaning, it’s ACAB day! Just like we reported last episode, Fridays have continued to see the biggest and most combative demonstrations, and this year 13.12 serendipitously fell on a Friday! In Santiago the classic nueva canción bands Inti-Illimani and Illapu played in Plaza de la Dignidad with the enormously popular indie rock act Los Bunkers. Needless to say, both the crowd and the confrontations were huge. The primera linea once again reached the base of the police officers monument.
But our crew was in Concepcion, where a beautiful banner prompted encapuchados to greet each other with salutations of “Feliz 13.12!” as if it were just a normal holiday where you build barricades instead of, say, decorating a tree. We also saw masked anarchists pushing a shopping cart with a HUGE pot full of lentils, feeding the frontline, and a little 9-year-old boy who carried a little motorbike tire to a quite large flaming barricade. A few masked figures held his hand just to make sure he didn’t accidentally trip while carrying the tire, and instructed him on how to safely lay it into the flames. It. was. freaking. adorable. And, of course, we interviewed a comrade on the streets about what the revolt in Chile’s second largest city has been like, while streetlamps with surveillance cameras came crashing down all around us.
Alannis: So what day is it, where are we, and who are we speaking with?
Conce anarchist: Well, today is Friday the 13th, December 2019, and we are in Concepción at the intersection of Paicaví Avenue and Carreras Avenue, which is an important landmark, a transportation node and therefore it is the place in which protesters choose to build their barricades and to reclaim the streets and bang on pots and pans. It goes beyond marching, it’s an interruption, an occupation.
And me, well, I take part in local, autonomous, anti-capitalist media and also in local anarchist groups. We are doing a lot of autonomous press work, doing exactly what you are doing now.
Alannis: And can you describe for our listeners what’s happening around us?
****Conce anarchist:**** Well, I would say that there are around 2000 people. Fridays see more action. Like I said this is a node to the nearby areas of Talcahuano, Coronel or Chiguayante, and barricades have been built on all the exits and there is a car with loudspeakers playing music. There’s an ambulance passing by now, but people will open up the barricades for it to cross, that is important. They’re opened for the ambulances but closed for the police. There are lots of lampposts and street lights that have been taken down and retail shops of big capitalist corporations that were looted some weeks ago, like Telepizza or the nearby Sodimac.
This is a really beautiful neighborhood, with buildings constructed in a local modernist style, dating back to the 50s and inspired by the Bauhaus. These were some of the first public housing projects here. So it is a beautiful place that serves not only for blocking routes but also as a gathering spot for the neighborhood, which has a strong community vibe. That said, it is also threatened by the construction of gentrifying high rises that you can see around it.
Although there is always graffiti, this is an extraordinary situation, with the whole city full of it. For instance, from here we can see graffiti reading “Lesbians against capitalism”, “Struggle”, “Anarchy”, “No more AFP” referring to the privatized pension system in Chile, “ACAB”, “Protest and resist”…There is even one on a 15 meter high structure that says, “Situationist International.” Some comrades had to climb to write that one.
Right now there’s some cumbia playing, you know, typical Latin America. A lot of people are carrying the Chilean flag, most them hooded and with a gas mask, people carrying their pots and pans…people are relaxing with some beer. This usually goes on until around 10pm, which is normally when the police show up.
Alannis: Until now we’ve only covered what’s been happening in Santiago and Valparaiso… can you give us a rundown of how it’s been in Concepcion?
Conce anarchist: Well, in Concepción everything started with a timid little protest on October 18, in support of what was going on in Santiago. But the first day with hundreds of thousands of people and barricades all around the city, that was the 19th…
Seriously. Hundreds of thousands. Concepción is Chile’s second largest city. Santiago has a population of 7.1 million people and the whole metropolitan area of Concepción has a population of around 2 million people between 13 distinct municipalities from Tomé in the north to Lota in the south and Concepción in the center. Most of these are found along the banks of the Bío-Bío river, which historically was the border of the Mapuche territory, the Walmapu. So, if you add the combined protesters of all the communes, hundreds of thousands of people took the streets on the 19th.
The evolution of the protest was pretty similar to that of Santiago and other cities, including clashes with the police and the ugly scenes of the military taking the streets and intensifying the repression, even murdering people. The movement here focused on attacking the structures of power, like government and state buildings, also big corporations like the Sodimac that, right over there, was totally burned down. It was this huge construction supply store that was full gutted by looters and then torched by the people.
Across the street there is an office of Compin, the bureau that manages the medical leave of workers. Compin is especially hated by people because they take ages to pay out, so it was also torched. Another important building is the Government building, in Plaza de la Independencia, which is the main city square. It was also burned on November 12 in the big general strike. The Mapuche struggle is also present, because from here to the south you start to see more Mapuche people on the streets and lots of Mapuche flags as well. Concepción is an industrial hub, with Talcahuano being its harbor. It used to be Chile’s largest port. Before the opening of the Panama Canal everything came through the south. Oh, and that explosion you just heard was only fireworks, not the police, so we can keep on calmly with the interview.
There’s a strong trade unionist tradition here dating back to the coalminers’ struggle in Lota and Coronel but also in newer industries like the lumber and fishing industries. Longshoremen unions are strong here in Talcahuano, San Vicente and Coronel and they are maybe the more combative trade unions here, they definitely have a presense that’s felt at the demonstrations. The students are also an important sector here, as Concepción has many universities and the biggest one, Universidad de Concepción, has around 17,000 students in this campus alone. It’s the biggest university outside of Santiago. So that gives Concepción its fame of being a university city, along with other universities like Universidad del Biobío, Universidad Católica de Concepción and other private ones. So that gives the city an interesting young vibe.
Also important in this region are the feminist and disidente movements, disidente referring to sexual dissidents, queer, trans, gay and lesbian compas, and there are massive marches on March 8. Parallel to what’s been going on in Santiago, the last ten years has seen a big growth in the local feminist movement that can be felt on the streets, with all the demands for abortion and sexual dissident rights. That has been really remarkable.
But, back to October, I would say that that first week that I was talking about was pretty massive, with a lot of clashes, but around mid November it started to go down.
Sorry for the interruption, they just tore down another lamppost. So, the frequency of the marches declined, also because there was a lot of people arrested or injured, repression was escalating and there was a lot of fear around. So the protests took place maybe two or three times a week, with Fridays being the biggest. I would like to mention that November 12 was an especially historic day, not only for Concepción but for Chile itself because it was the first wild general strike since Pinochet’s resignation and the return of democracy.
Just wild, with the people taking the streets and the trade unions building barricades. It was not just a pause in production, just leaving work and going home. It was people leaving their workplaces to take to the streets and erect barricades and that gave it a distinctive combative character. Not only the trade unions but the whole populace was taking the streets. It was one of the most massive days here in Concepción, I’d guess in the other cities as well, but it was really, really important here. They burned the government building in the main plaza.
That was on Tuesday and then, that very same week, Thursday the 14th was the first anniversary of the death of Camilo Catrillanca, a mapuche villager and warrior murdered by police.
Pardon the interruption, but a large column of black bloc is entering the traffic circle now with a lot of front liners. It looks like they are planning on tearing down this nearby pole with a security camera.
Anyway, that day was very important in Concepción from a symbolic point of view, because the statue of Pedro de Valdivia in Plaza de la Independencia was torn down. Pedro de Valdivia was a colonizer and mass-murderer that founded Concepcion and most of the cities in Chile. That statue of him was donated by none other than the fascist dictator of Spain Francisco Franco in the 1950s, on the 400th anniversary of Concepción’s founding. So the fact that on the day of Camilo Catrillanca’s murder, you saw mapuche warriors beat back police to allow a group with ropes to take down the statue, that was really symbolic. Because the statue was not only torn down but also dragged to the other end of the square and left at the feet of the statue of the Lautaro, the mapuche leader and strategist who once burned down Concepcion in resistance to Spanish colonization. So, it was really symbolic that the statue of Pedro de Valdivia was dragged and left at the feet of Lautaro. Beautiful.
Alannis: Isn’t there also a chant here that was inspired by Lautaro?
Conce anarchist: Oh yeah. Well, I don’t know if it has that much to do with Lautaro but there’s maybe an incendiary memory among the people. It goes “If there’s no solution we will burn Concepcion!”
Uh oh… it sounds like a police vehicle is approaching… maybe let’s take a pause?
Alannis: Ok, now that you have successfully repelled the water cannon, can you just tell me some of your most treasured memories from what’s happened in Concepción during this revolt?
Conce anarchist: I mean, the first day, October 19, in this same spot but with tens or hundreds of thousands people, with barricades burning more than eight meters high and the Telepizza in flames… just huge flames. I also have good memories of one of the days after that, it must have been the 20th or the 21st. I was on my way home, so I took streets that were far from the protest and then I saw the office building of Ciudad del Parque. Ciudad del Parque is a real-estate project that they’re planning to develop in a neighborhood called Parque Ecuador, changing the urban planning in that area, creating vertical ghettos with really tall buildings. It was a huge project, with more than twelve high rises. It would create a ton of traffic in an already busy downtown area. Neighbors from the area were totally against it, it was a really controversial project.
So, that day, it was around 10pm and I was heading towards the river from downtown and in the real estate offices, as the high rises are not yet built, I see a group of five or six masked people entering, very fast and organized. They poured out gasoline, lit it up and escaped. It was a really swift attack. They fled of course but I just I stayed and watched. A few days later the company delivered an announcement saying that the project was going to be canceled, citing the complaints of the neighbors, as if they suddenly now cared what the neighbors had to say.
A lot of comments appeared saying that it might be a false flag operation from the police to generate chaos to cause the people to ask for more repression and security. But, that’s not what happened, it was just a group of young masked people who were probably against this project.
Also, there’s this local shoe factory that about a year ago delighted their workers with the news that they’d have an earlier holiday than usual. But once the workers were home, they saw in the news that the company had declared bankruptcy. The workers were fired with no compensation.
Even the factory’s secretary noticed some unusual transactions and made a backup of the company’s books, which is now the main evidence in the workers’ suit against the company. Anyway, even though it’s a local company it was one of the first retail shops to be looted, I think mainly because of the anger against what they did to their workers. A day or two after it was looted they hung a big, nicely printed sign on the doors reading, “Please don’t loot, there is nothing left.” And a little after than someone else attached a smaller sign saying, “Not yet, the printer is still there.”
Alannis: Have you seen any beautiful gestures among people on the streets or plain citizens and protesters, maybe acts of solidarity?
Well, maybe the most relevant is the involvement of the health brigades, which are medicine and nursing students and even healthcare workers that organize themselves to take care of the wounded. I also find it really beautiful that there is a second line of people with spray bottles of baking soda mixed with water to help with the tear gas. Also there’s a new group just now getting organized called “Protesting is not a Crime.” They’re organizing protests almost every week at the gates of the Manzano Prison, carrying a list of all the arrestees from the revolt here in Concepción, and also organizing the aid network for arrestees and their families. That is a really beautiful gesture. You can find them on social media by searching “Red Protestar No Es Delito.”
Alannis: So, Concepcion being a college town, what do you think will happen when the students are back in March of 2020?
Conce anarchist: I think that it is really important that the school year is over and that most of the students in Concepción are not from here. Like I said, this is the biggest university outside Santiago and there are students from far to the north and far to the south. The people here right now are mostly locals. So when the students return—whenever that may be, because right now they’re afraid to open up again. They know that as soon as they do their departments are just going to get occupied. So when the school year starts again, the occupations will start. Some dozens of high schools are currently occupied. So what I think will happen is that tens of thousands of students will join the protest and will strengthen the front line and the clashes with the police. They are going to make the conflicts on the streets even more intense. It will carry on.
Alannis: Thanks so much for all that info. Any last thoughts?
Conce anarchist: I would like to say hi to all the listeners. The neoliberal experiment here in Chile is being heavily criticized and that’s important because the world used to have this view of Chile as the laboratory of neoliberalism and a model of the neoliberal ideology. So, from the streets of a country in revolt, I’d like to send warm regards to all the comrades out there.
UPDATE: DECEMBER UPDATE PART TWO
Clara: While 13.12 was a day for street conflicts, over the weekend local municipalities, mostly those with progressive mayors and politicians, held a non-binding but official poll of whether their residents want a new constitution and about a variety of other demands that have arisen in the protests regarding pensions, transit, health, education, indigenous land rights, and so on. In some areas the mayors lowered the voting age to 14, recognizing the important role students have played in the current uprising. Across the country over 200 municipalities participated, with more than 2 million voters and 94% in favor of a new constitution, three quarters of whom chose the little circle for a constitutional convention with directly elected representatives, while the other 25% chose the circle for a mixed body with currently elected politicians choosing representatives as well. The turnout was all over the news and, for the liberal side of the movement, represented a victory. However, like all elections with predetermined options, freedom from the state was not on the ballot.
Alannis: Given the apparent success of the municipal polls to attract those who agree with the demands from the streets, it shouldn’t be surprising that the government decided to follow up a moment of mass, legal, democratic participation on the one hand with repression of the most combative elements of the uprising on the other. The next day, Monday, December 16, a shocking number of police showed up to Plaza de la Dignidad, and the entire evening they prevented protesters from gathering at the statue, the symbolic center of the protests. There were still small skirmishes down Alameda, but successfully preventing demonstrators from reaching the plaza was something that had not yet been seen in the revolt.
Any sense of routine that had set in over the last month was gone that week. It once again felt like no one knew exactly where things were going to go. On Wednesday, December 18, the two-month anniversary of the uprising, enough rebels amassed that they were able to take the statue again for brief periods, all the while being dispersed by police and regrouping. Then on Friday, it was announced that over one thousand cops would be waiting for protesters at Plaza de la Dignidad, and they threatened that there was no permit for any kind of demonstration… which…. Yeah, that’s the point! Also, it’s interesting to note that the police force in Santiago is about 15,000, meaning that about 6.5% of the city’s cops were in the Plaza. Remember, only a couple weeks earlier the police force of the country was increased by exactly the same percentage. A common observation that day was how young and fresh-faced the cops in the plaza were.
After about 2 hours of cat and mouse clashes with the cops, demonstrators finally took the statue, allowing protesters to enjoy yet another Friday sunset in the plaza.
Clara: Ok! And now I know you’ve probably forgotten it by now, but remember the Mighty Morphin Power Rioters ???
Alannis: Uhhhh, uh huh.
Clara: Well, just days before Christmas, the government inadvertently spread some subversive cheer by publishing a “big data” intelligence report that, among more cliché scapegoats like Cuba and Venezuela, blamed the influence of K-Pop, as in, Korean pop music, for inciting the revolt… although the fucking philistines at the helm of the state were also lumping in anime and Asian pop culture in general.
Alannis: I… I… uh… what?
Clara: So, it’s true that when you go out to the demonstrations you see all kinds of characters, either in costumes or on posters, like Pikachu, Naruto, and, like I said, the Mighty Morphin Power Rioters. There’s tons of graffiti and wheatpasted posters about Otaku antifa, or “more Otakus less cops,” stuff like that. But, obviously this isn’t an international conspiracy like the intelligence report made it seem like. It’s just…Chileans like their cute characters, and this is one of those moments where it’s too bad we’re a podcast, because the memes were amaaaazing.
There was one tweet that read, “Someone drafted the report, another person received the report, consultants read the report, the president approved the report, the minister of the interior submitted the report… and not one of them had the capacity to say, ‘y’all, this shit is ridiculous.’”
Then there were others that detourned Salvador Allende’s famous quote that “to be young and not revolutionary is a biological contradiction,” to ones about being young and listening to K-Pop.
You had a stern-faced Che Guevara pointing with his cigar and saying, “What do you mean you don’t listen to K-Pop? You fucking tool of the right.” And Homer Simpson punishing Bart for listening to Victor Jara and not being a true revolutionary K-Pop stan.
It probably seems weird to some of our listeners to spend so much time on essentially jokes about pop culture.
Alannis: Could even seem weird to some of our hosts…
Clara: But one of the things that has helped spread the revolt here, and not just spread it but connect it to an idealism and an imagination about what kind of world the rebels and dreamers here want is the high level of creativity and cultural production connected to the uprising.
Alannis: But wearing a Pikachu costume isn’t exactly producing culture.
Clara: But making hilarious memes about the government trembling over a middle aged woman dancing through the protests in a goofy Pikachu costume IS. Sorry to belabor the point but, I just wanted to highlight how producing culture, art, and a sense of humor has been crucial to keeping the uprising going. The call for the protest in Plaza de la Dignidad for the Friday after that intelligence report was K-Pop themed, and there were all kinds of costumes present to show that, beyond the street confrontations with police, we have a capacity for joy and creation that is just waiting for the kind of world where it can flourish.
Alannis: Wow. I didn’t realize how passionate you were about K-pop. No wonder the government is so scared of its influence.
Clara: On the other hand, there were small sectors of the revolt saying that the government would rather distract us with a ridiculous story like the influence of K-pop than have us discussing the real problems in Chile, like wage inequality, privatized health and education, the state violence that has been unleashed in the past few months, and so on.
Alannis: Speaking of which, even Christmas wasn’t free from police violence in the plaza. Young radicals held a free dinner on Christmas Eve for anyone to attend, and even though it literally just consisted of people dining and dancing, the cops rolled up with their water cannons and tear gas tanks and destroyed the dinner.
Clara: December 27 was another big, combative Friday in Santiago, with two terrible tragedies. First, a fire started on the roof of Cine Arte Alameda, an independent cinema and concert venue in between the two street corners that see the most confrontation between encapuchados and police. The cinema hosts a first aid station during the protests and has shown solidarity in other ways…including continuing to screen The Joker. Videos circulated later of a teargas canister that police fired onto the theater’s roof, and many people’s speculation is that the heat from the teargas canister started the fire, destroying almost everything except for parts of the lobby. If that sounds unlikely to any listeners, we would just like to point out that it is not the first case of this kind of accusation during the uprising, and that some of the teargas canisters themselves carry a warning that they can cause fires.
Later Friday evening, a demonstrator at one of the primera linea street corners died after falling into a utility hole while running from a police tank. The word on the street that night was that he got electrocuted as the utility hole filled with water from the police water cannon, but the official government autopsy declared his cause of death to be drowning. But whatever the government says, we know the cause of death was the police, and ultimately the state.
Almost immediately after his body was recovered, the site of the comrade’s death was transformed into a colorful memorial with flowers, flags, bottles, pins, and anything else meaningful from the last two months in the streets. The wall behind the memorial was graffitied in the shape of a tombstone with a eulogy written on it that reads, “The voices they have silenced will live on in the wind, and when terror creeps up on us, the wind will whisper, ‘forward, forward!’ One falls, we all rise up.” Normally, the area around Plaza de la Dignidad is very dark, owing to the destruction of Alameda’s streetlamps, but the candles from the memorial lit that street corner late into the night, with passing crowds stopping by to pay their respects and leave a flower or a bandana. This was not the first death of the uprising, but the fact that someone died on the front line reminded many of how they could also face the same fate. It’s the first time in this revolt that our crew has seen or heard of people memorializing the dead with the following:
That’s a traditional call and response chant for honoring comrades who died in struggle. “Comrade Mauricio Fredes, presente, now, and forever. Towards victory, always. Who killed him? The fucking cops. And who will we avenge him? The people. And how will we avenge him? Struggling and building people power.” Despite the police repeatedly destroying the memorial, the memorial has come back to life over and over. It was still there on New Years Eve, which, we have to emphasize, was the most spectacular New Years Eve celebration we’ve ever been a part of. We received the following report detailing what happened in the streets:
NEW YEARS EVE REPORT Anonymous: Leading up to New Years, there was a struggle for control between the city, the police, and the people. The Mayor said “there are always people gathering in plazas for New Years,” and he asked people do so responsibly and not break the law. In contrast, the police planned on preemptively dispersing the plaza, with 1,500 cops on hand. The city wanted to depoliticize the celebrations, while the police simply wanted to repress them—both strategies for preventing the New Year from being rung in with the tone of courage, combat, and care that has defined gatherings in Plaza de la Dignidad for the last three months. There was some uncertainty in the air about how the night would go. Who would have their way, the city government, the police, or the people?
Christmas and summertime had interrupted the rhythm of the daily protests, and New Years wasn’t a Friday, so it was hard to predict whether the action that night would push the envelope, or simply feel routine.
Regardless, over the last few months I’ve learned that the most important thing is to just show up—sometimes it is routine, but other times are full of unbelievable, unpredictable experiences… and the ones that I’ve been lucky enough to be there for have been so transformative that I’m left haunted thinking of all the fragile moments I missed. Life should always be so full. Our affinity group’s plan was basically party on the street and defend people from the tear gas as long as possible, until the police force us to leave. We showed up early, while there still weren’t that many people, because there was a huge, open dinner in the plaza that we wanted to partake in.
In Chile, the New Year’s tradition is you eat dinner with your family and ring in midnight with them, then after the abuelos and grown ups go to sleep, anyone who still wants to party goes out at about 1. So, the streets are fairly tranquil pre-midnight, but already by 7 PM thousands were gathered in the Plaza around the tables and seats that a large, well-organized people’s kitchen had set up. Rows of street medics broke bread with video-activists who sat across from abuelas that couldn’t participate in the frontline but who wanted to show up for them all the same.
I’ve gotten compliments before for going out with my gas mask and water bottle, I’ve even had cans of beer offered to me after quickly extinguishing teargas, but on New Years the enthusiasm was at another level. People all around us were thrilled that we were at the dinner with our gasmasks and impact-proof goggles. I think a lot of this had to do with Mauricio Fredes’ death on the front line just a few nights before, but in general it just felt like everyone was celebrating each other for making it to 2020, after months in the streets together. And Mauricio’s death was a reminder that not all of us in this fight made it.
Next to the dinner area there was a little stage, and before long a live cumbia band lit up the crowd. One of the compas in our affinity group had been complaining for months about not getting to see live cumbia, and justice was finally served, because they were so, so good. There we were, our little group in full gear, masked up, dancing cumbias on New Years next to true heroes and their families…. what more could you ask for? As the band ended someone took the mic and made a speech about turning out the vote and the constitutional assembly that visibly displeased a lot of the crowd, although no one booed. That was our cue to leave.
After all, we had to put our gear to use at some point. When we got to one of the combative intersections, the front line had gained a full block further than where it was normally kept, and the police were backed far down a side street behind a fence. It was unusual, normally the police heavily guard this block, but instead they were cornered up against the back of their church. The water cannon sporadically shot out bursts of spray, but no one was phased. It was just after sunset and the golden sky reflected off of the ground covered in crowd control water, while encapuchados launched rocks, fireworks, and molotovs at the police across the fence.
The police weren’t really shooting teargas though, so we wandered on to look for a spot where we could be more useful. We checked our watches—40 minutes to go. Where do we want to be when it turns midnight? We walked around some more and in Parque Forestal we stumble upon an enormous spread of hors d’oeuvres, tended by a totally normal large extended family. They’re bouncing toddlers on their laps and the grandfather, a handsome older man dressed in an elegant polo with a sweater wrapped around his shoulders, offers us wine and snacks. “Please,” he insists. There’s even little kebabs of vegetables for the vegans.
All around the park are families who decided to picnic near the Plaza to ring in the New Year. I want to highlight how intergenerational it all is, from small children to seniors, but the word “intergenerational” isn’t tender enough to truly relate how sweet it was. Familiar, maybe? There was a lot of love on the streets that night, people really cherishing one another and happy to be there together.
A rumor reaches us—there’s another concert happening on top of a theater’s nearby marquee. It’s Ana Tijoux! How did we not hear about this? We cross the plaza through crowds of families and people drinking beer and wearing blinking crowns and bracelets, everything is beautiful and glistening. Even the statue in the middle of the plaza is lit up by neighbors from a nearby apartment building. They installed a bunch of purple lights and focused them on the plaza for the evening, giving it a unique ambiance that night.
The sound wasn’t that great, but Ana Tijoux’s performance was on fire, and props to her and her band for showing up despite having to enter and exit the stage through an apartment window that let out onto the marquee. She finished with an encore of Cacerolazo, the first anthem of the revolt that came out just three days after the first night of riots.
5 minute to go until midnight. Where should we be? On the front line? 4 minutes. Or back at the hors d’oeuvres table popping sparkling wine with our friends? 3 minutes. Dancing around a street fire? 2 minutes and we’re crossing the Plaza. 1 minute, let’s just take it all in right here.
Fireworks and flares filled the night sky. From a nearby rooftop a projector blasted the words “Dignity,” “Justice,” “Equality,” “Diversity,” “Humanity,” across an enormous skyscraper on the east end of the plaza. Then it projects the Mapuche star and the phrase, “the auracana trees will once again cover the cities.” A huge banner stretched across the Plaza reading, “Only through struggle can we move forward.” Everyone seemed to hold onto this moment, not wanting to let it end. My lover, comrade, friend, who I’ve spent so many unforgettable moments in the streets with pulled down their mask.
They said, “We’ve been through a lot this year,” and we kissed.
We had. Watching this revolt, or whatever you want to call it, grow from its infancy, change into what is it now, with 2020 full of unwritten stories, and it’s only been 2.5 months but I’ve lived more in these months than in years… I started to cry a little, everything that has passed is so overwhelming to try to reflect on in one moment. I can’t quite reconcile all of my feelings, and actually I don’t want to be able to, to define it would mean it is controllable. There are so many living contradictions in this fight, and I think that is part of the anarchic nature of it. It’s a celebration, a carnival, the most fun I have ever had, the most I’ve ever learned, cooperating, experimenting, a place where people can for even just a moment experience the dignity they are fighting for… but this is the product of decades of repression and exploitation, and this struggle has been full of tragedy too. Lives changed, lives lost. I was there when Mauricio died, I’ve seen so many people carried away on stretchers. People are sacrificing so much for this fight. Part of it feels so futile too, some days it just feels ritualistic, like the police just let us have our fun and clear us out when they are ready, and the media and politicians twist the narrative to paint whatever picture ensures their viability. But other days it really feels like the people have the power, that whatever they say on tv is so far away from us and our reality, that the tables have turned and the political class has to scramble and tighten their death grips. I believe in these multiplicities and that it doesn’t have to be any one thing, so many people are here for so many different reasons, and it is far from over. Things will never be the same. With crashing cymbal I was suddenly back in the now. A big band dressed as skeletons paraded through the crowd, livening our spirits with brass and percussion. I looked all around, smiling. Here we are. We are fucking here and I’m so proud of everyone for being so fucking brave. There is music everywhere tonight. Two enormous speakers play anthems of the revolt out some apartment windows, an experimental synth guitar band is right on the frontline, with teargas and stones flying over them as they play.
It was 1 in the morning and finally we got to dunking gas canisters into our jugs and shaking them until they were out. Praise rained on us from all around. It felt good but also, I didn’t quite feel like I deserved it… all I did was toss a few teargas canisters into water. I wasn’t risking as much as those who concerned themselves with rocks and shields, let alone those risking three-year sentences for molotovs. It was a good reminder that I should applaud and show my support for everyone else on the frontline too. Every role on the street is interdependent. But also, it was good we were there that night, because the gas was really, really, really strong. Normally the water in my jug is left brown or slightly orange after a night at the Plaza, but on New Years the water turned red, bright red.
All of a sudden the sun is rising. It’s almost 6 am?! How can time simultaneously pass so quickly but every moment seems to last an eternity? We make it to where Alameda meets Vicuña Mackenna and find a drum line inspiring the crowd to dance and sing, rotating through Bella Ciao, Chile Despertó, and the other popular rhythms of the revolt. One compa in our crew was just too anarchist for Chile Despertó though, because that phrase means “Chile has awoken.” Instead, over everyone else singing, he was going so hard shouting “Chile Se Acabó,” or Chile’s over. It was like the neverending song, it just. Kept. Going. On, and on, and on. None of the demonstrations had ever made it this late into the night before, to the point that we got to see the sunrise.
There’s no poetic way to write what happened next. The cops came with water cannons and sprayed the crowd and dispersed us with teargas. Typical, routine, here we are again. Everyone was soaked. They were probably waiting until we were all so worn out or drunk that there wasn’t much fight left. Fine. Fuck em. They can have the morning, that night was ours.
MATIAS CATRILEO ANNIVERSARY
Clara: And… we can’t just stop at New Years, because the first week of January saw lots of action too. In the words of one of our comrades… it’s 2020 now but somehow it’s still October 2019.
Alannis: January 3 was the twelve-year anniversary of the death of Matías Catrileo, a Mapuche warrior and university student who grew up in Santiago, but moved to Temuco in the south and participated in Mapuche land struggles. At 23, Matías was shot by police during an occupation of Mapuche land owned by the Luchsingers, one of the largest landowning families in Walmapu. Catrileo is one of the symbols, some would call him a martyr, of both the Mapuche struggle and the anarchist movement, as he participated in both anarchist and punk circles in Santiago. A large mural of Matías lines the Mapocho river near Plaza de la Dignidad, and the anniversary of his death is regularly observed with combat and commemoration. This year was no different except for just how massive the participation was. We received this anonymous report from the streets:
Clara: As thousands of people were flooding the streets of Santiago Centro for another Friday, a small crew of encapuchados began to gather near the fallen police officers’ monument. The Primera Línea keep the police at bay by throwing rocks and advanced by building barricades with their shields. On the other side of the police plaza, another group of encapuchados were advancing closer and closer towards the Church of the Carabineros, just behind the monument, an area that protestors had yet to reach in almost 3 months of revolt.
Someone pointed and shouted “skunk!” That’s the name of the teargas tanks here. I felt heat. Fire. Two molotovs hit the zorrillo, the skunk, and it drove off quickly. The water cannon has a cute nickname too, the guanaco, referring to the Patagonian llama that spit. Then the sound of breaking glass. Behind the primera linea and their shields, people broke into a furniture store and looted wood and long metal beams to add to the barricade on Alameda, as well as starting a large furniture fire in front of the store. One affinity group dedicated itself to wrapping neon green and yellow plastic from one side of the boulevard to the other, from light post to palm tree to bus stop and so on. Walking down Alameda one had to crawl under a colorful maze leading you to a barricade whose flames reached higher and higher as the evening went on. There were no “skunks” or “llamas” to be found, so we continued down the rabbit hole of riotous carnaval.
By now the primera línea had continuously been smashing the police monument and launching the broken pieces at the police, using bare hands and slingshots—both the Bart Simpson kind and the Palestinian kind. The monument also served as good cover, and offered the primera línea higher ground since the monument is slightly elevated. Over the next hour the primera linea grew bigger and fiercer. Suddenly, the police began to retreat, and without hesitation the large crowd charged forward across the plaza, towards the church. This is the police’s sacred building, just behind the monument to their dead. There’s no multi-story marble statue to any of our compas who died fighting for freedom. The memory of our dead lives in our actions, in our aspirations, and I swear to you the ghost of Matías Catrileo was with us as this mob rushed the gates of the church and broke them open. Its windows were broken, more fires were set, and the nativity scene on the church’s lawn was immediately trashed. Don’t they know it isn’t Christmas?
From the inside encapuchados carried out a pew and other furniture to add to the fire. Someone found a ladder, climbed up the side and ripped out the church’s surveillance camera. Everyone cheered! Billowing black clouds emanated from jagged broken windows—years and years of police officers’ prayers for forgiveness, now up in smoke.
I turned around and the office building next to the church was getting it too—the whole architecture of the building was windows, and not one was left unbroken, well, at least on the first four floors. Everyone jumping and cheering. Just a beautiful, chaotic symphony with the soprano of shattering glass, the muffled alto and tenor of the whole crowd chanting “whoever doesn’t jump is a cop! Whoever doesn’t jump is a cop!” The baritone roar of molotovs landing and their flames reaching towards the sky.
With the entire police plaza liberated from their control, encapuchados were able to destroy the face that normally faced the squadrons of police, a reminder they will have to stare at for weeks to come. Months to come? Ideally, until there are no more police. The monument’s railings, with the insignia of the Carabineros de Chile, were ripped out of the concrete and thrown into the flaming barricade on Alameda, greeted with cheers.
A smaller police statue was dug up and also carried to the fire. A leg fell off on the way and it was used to smash a nearby window. Now you’ve put your foot in it!
Some genius, some hero brought over a large loudspeaker and played metal and pop-punk, prompting a crowd of over a hundred people to dance in a circle pit, singing along, while those inside the pit threw rocks and those outside threw molotovs at the nearby buildings. Somehow, one of the pillars of the monument was set ablaze and burned for almost an hour. Scientifically, I’m not really sure if marble can burn… but this wasn’t science. This was magic.
Everyone’s head turned west: a fire truck approaching the monument was stopped by protesters—something you never see. Then everyone’s head turned south: a group of six were carrying the green Carabinero flag out of the police officers’ church. A massive crowd followed, with the rock’n’roll loudspeaker piping along. They threw the flag into the fire. The crowd put their arms around each other, chanting, dancing, circling the fire. “Soon they will see, soon they will see, the bullets they fired will be coming back.” Most of our faces were concealed, but our hearts were far from it. We laughed, hugged, danced in our moment of victory—or if not victory, victoriousness—because soon after, the police closed in, shooting tear gas and dispersing the crowd that destroyed their sacred site. People took cover, but kept fighting back. The fires from the monument and furniture store silhouetted the squads of police. Every bullet, every teargas can that they shot was an exact copy produced on an assembly line. We responded with stones and molotovs, not one the same as any other. For another couple of hours our two worlds faced off, both sides faceless, but their side heartless as the flames engulfing their temple blackened the skies.
Alannis: And to close out the on-the-streets coverage of the probably-maybe-who-knows-but-most-likely last episode of Radio Evasión… we’re delighted to circle back to exactly where this revolt started, unruly high school students. January 6 and 7 were supposed to be the days for the Prueba de Selección Universitaria, or the PSU, Chile’s university entrance exam, kind of like the SAT in the United States. Unsurprisingly, the distribution of good scores on the test basically follows the distribution of income, as lots of tweeted out maps have been reminding people. Organized sectors of high school students and other anti-capitalists rightly denounce the test as a tool of economic segregation and capitalist rule.
And what do Chilean high schoolers do to tools of economic segregation and capitalist rule? That’s right, they evaded the PSU and shut it down. On January 6, testing sites around the country were occupied by students. They burned PSU paperwork, destroyed desks, and bravely faced down administrators, cops, and angry, condescending parents. At some schools, teachers showed up for their students and stood between them and police. On the outskirts of Concepcion students fistfought their administrators. Movement social media accounts leaked photos of the test, and, in at least one instance, called on mathematicians to demonstrate outside PSU sites and chant the answers to complicated algebra questions. According to the high school student organization we interviewed in Radio Evasion 2, at least 144 testing sites were suspended.
Clara: And just to emphasize once again how important memeing is and how hilariously bad the ruling class is at it, CNN Chile shared a photo of a student crying outside of her PSU testing site. The caption suggested she was upset about the test being cancelled. Within minutes the photo went viral on far-right social media, with fascists and right-wingers decrying the quote-unquote “violence” of high-school students shutting down the test. But just hours later, the very same student in question, in the same outfit she was wearing in the photo, started sharing video testimonies and popping up in the comments of pundit after pundit, explaining that she wholeheartedly supports the movement to get rid of the PSU and that she was having a fucking anxiety attack because the test determines your fucking caste in life.
Alannis: January 7 saw much of the same, with the History section of the PSU cancelled across the entire country. As one meme succinctly put it, “The history PSU has been cancelled, because students are opting to write their own history in the streets.”
You can expect more student rebellion when students are back at the end of February. If you want to help us cover what happens, e-mail us at email@example.com to find out more about how to support the documentary we want to produce about the upcoming season of rebellion in the territories dominated by the Chilean state.
ANARCHIST ASSEMBLY OF THE Bío-Bío
Alannis: And for the second half of our episode, we have a series of interviews and reports from the nascent anarchist assemblies in the three largest cities in Chile: Santiago, Concepción, and Valparaiso. The first one we attended was in Concepción on December 19, the two-month anniversary of when things kicked off there. We were astounded at the number of people who came and the energy in the room. A little over 50 people attended, all coming with their own local experiences participating in neighborhood or territorial assemblies, excited to be in a room where anarchist principles were a given. And people came from all over, from hours away because Concepcion is the second largest city in Chile, and somewhat of a hub for rural and Mapuche organizing in the south. One thing we have to mention is how distinct it felt from Santiago, and how the comrades’ analyses and revolutionary visions were shaped by their own local history from around Concepcion and the Bío-Bío river. They constantly made reference to local strikes, ecological conditions, and in general showed an intimate knowledge of their surroundings and their histories. We caught up with two participants in the assembly, one who helped organize it and another who participates in Mapuche land struggles.
INTERVIEW: THE NEED FOR AN ANARCHIST ASSEMBLY
Alannis: Who are we talking with?
NOE: My name is Noe, and I consider myself an anarchist.
I’m based out of Chiguayante, which is a city of 89,000 people, 16 kilometers down the banks of the river Bío-Bío from Concepción.
I’ve been participating since October, mostly in the streets, and then when the territorial organizations started to form I joined the Chiguayante Organizado assembly. It was the third assembly when I joined and as of today, December 19, the assembly has met 11 times. Our peak attendance so far was just over 100 members of the community.
The assembly is horizontally organized, and the idea of autonomous projects is discussed a lot, as well as the idea of solving problems from within the community and not just generating a list of demands.
There’s a general distrust of institutions, political parties, and the state itself – which in more than 30 years, and this is what you hear constantly within the uprising, has not resolved anything, not one of the people’s problems.
From what older people have told me, Chiguayante was once very well organized, certainly during the resistance to the dictatorship more than any other time. This was completely lost in the years after, but now it’s being taken up again.
Many different kinds of direct action have been taken, from the typical ‘cazerolazo’ that you can see in the protests, to more radical forms too.
The assembly has members from 19 years old to people in their 70s, and we have people with us who lived through the dictatorship - who were tortured or who were political prisoners of the dictatorship. Today they really show their distrust towards all kinds of institutions and the state, since they’re people who remained totally active during the so-called ‘transition to democracy’, and who were able to see how the dictatorship never really ended.
Our assembly is divided into working groups, we have a legal working group. We have an environmental working group, and we are working on a community-garden project in one of the most vulnerable neighborhoods of Chiguayante where there is lots of drug-addiction. It’s one of the most abandoned areas, where there are no resources, where there are buildings that are still in ruins since the 2010 earthquake, which is why the idea of seizing land is spreading now, along with the construction of the community-garden.
The garden is mostly being promoted by the oldest member of our assembly, an ex-railway worker who also expresses anarchist points of view in the assembly.
The assembly is truly beautiful, and part of its principles is to not accept the participation of anyone who comes as a representative of any political party. You can belong to the Chiguayante Organizado Assembly, and also belong to a political party, but you cannot come and speak on behalf of the party or push the party line.
At one point the process for a new constitution was discussed, and you can see that people generally have very little confidence in the process. They are beginning to ask themselves if just changing the constitution is really going to solve the systemic problems they face, and they identify those problems as coming from the extractive neo-liberal capitalist system.
We held a workshop where everyone was given a slip of paper to write down what economic system they believed we live under, and how it affected them. There was this one little girl, for example, she said the problem as she saw it was that her dad couldn’t be with her, because he had to spend so much time with his boss. [laughs]
And we discovered that people think the real base of the problem is the economic system itself. And from there people concerned themselves with learning about other kinds of autonomous economic systems that have existed and still exist throughout the world. Together we’ve compiled a list of these experiences, and we’re making autodidactic learning materials and sessions about these kinds of possibilities.
And this might be a way that more explicitly anarchist ideas could be discussed in the assembly, because up to now they really haven’t been. I mean, there’s a very strong tendency towards anarchist forms of organization on a practical level within the assembly, but people don’t really know that these ways of organizing are actually anarchistic - they just know that they work.
Alannis: And here, now, we’re speaking with out after the first anarchist assembly of the Bío-Bío. How was it? And how did the idea, or the need, to have an expressly anarchist assembly arise?
NOE: Well, the idea really came from a group of friends, all women. We were talking one day, and we said “Hey, when are we as anarchists going to formulate a position on everything that’s going on? We’re participating in all of the territorial assemblies, so why don’t we get together to talk and see what we can do?” That was maybe a couple of weeks after the uprising started.
So then we started planning, and more people joined in to help. One of these groups was Grupo Ignomine, an affinity group that started in the University of Concepción to make university spaces available to workers’ organizations, but eventually started to spread out of the university campus, because it was too much of a bubble.
Some individuals from that affinity group, plus others from the Center for Anarchist Studies and Documentation and from Radio Kurruf decided to begin to organize the assembly.
We started the assembly off trying first to provide a view of the different territorial contexts, understanding that we are all participating in the territorial assemblies as anarchists - energizing those spaces and making sure that they do not start to become hierarchical, so that we can begin to have a different logic when it comes to organization - and that has been working really well up to this point.
People attended from Cañete, Los Angeles, Concepción, Talcahuano, Chiguayante, Los Alamos, …Laraquete, Lota, Coronel - from lots of different parts of the country, and they all told us about what’s happening in their areas.
The next item we discussed was our positions on the constitutional process and the Agreement for Social Peace – the latter of which is already highly criticized by many in the territorial assemblies because it was signed by political parties behind closed doors, signed with the blood of those lost in this rebellion, without consulting any of the people who have been in the streets protesting this entire time.
So we are looking to form a unified position in the anarchist assembly about this, because obviously this constitutional process is a reformulation of the state, of its magna-carta - so what is our position there? Understanding also that the people see this as a possible solution, how should we face that? And in short what we discussed in the assembly is that clearly we are not going to support the constitutional process itself, because it goes against our beliefs and values as anarchists - but we’re not going to abandon the territorial assemblies just because some people are seeking a constitutional assembly. Instead, if this is the path that the people want to take, we want to be there for them because we know it is going to fail. When this happens and the people are again disappointed, we will be there to help and to provide examples of alternative forms of organization. And that’s why it is necessary that we define a clear position concerning this moment when it comes, because we believe it is coming.
We can see already that the constitutional process has been invalidated by the way it is being carried out by the traditional political parties, with no consideration for territorial organization. We can see there is no real social peace because there is no mention of the indigenous population, or of gender, or so-called sexual-minorities. So it’s already being highly criticized, and we believe that if it continues to be carried out in this way, there can be good outcome from it.
Later in the assembly we spoke about giving more visibility to anarchism. Since we are also active within the territorial assemblies, how can we help our neighbors understand who we really are, and what our ideas are? And how can we do this in a way that will be well received? We discussed launching specific projects from within the Bío-Bío anarchist assembly, but decided that it’s not the right time yet because we’re still just getting to know each other. For now we have committed to maintain an ongoing anarchist assembly.
There is also a conversation being raised around anarcha-feminism, considering that there are fewer sisters in our ranks. We didn’t get too far into it, leaving it for the next session.
We also discussed methods for creating an analysis of economic conditions from an anarchist standpoint, which will require some time - time to allow us to clearly document our ideas about the social uprising, and our proposals for solutions that can unify a rebellion that is currently extremely broad and diverse.
The people in the uprising don’t see any way out aside from the demand for a constitutional process, but they don’t want the kind of constitutional process that’s been offered by the state – so, it’s really a pretty strange time right now.
Alannis: Thank you so much. Is there anything else you’d like to add, or any scenes or memories from the revolt so far that have stuck with you?
NOE: Well, I’m amazed that the barricades don’t seem to bother people at all, they’re actually openly accepted. When we make barricades in Chiguayante, little kids and even entire families pitch in and help - the other day there was a family there roasting marshmallows on the barricade fire. [laughs] So I guess that would be the strangest thing I’ve seen - a family roasting marshmallows on the barricade fire - [laughs] the most extreme, and beautiful that I’ve seen.
Remember too that families here have seen over and over how, when people want to peacefully gather in the plazas, they can’t, because the police come to abuse them. So the front lines hold and hold and hold, and keep the movement going until they can’t hold anymore - and then the government comes and violently breaks it all up. People see this, understand the logic, understand why the front line combat exists, why the masks and hoodies. But it really is just recently that people are beginning to understand, very recently.
INTERVIEW: THE REVOLT AND MAPUCHE RESISTANCE
Alannis: So here we are after the first Anarchist Assembly of the Bío-Bío. Who are we speaking with?
Tadeo: (Starts making his introduction in Mapudungun, the Mapuche language)
And now I’ll say it in Spanish. My name is Tadeo. I come from Chiguayante, but I’m currently organizing around a land reoccupation in Melipeuco, 400 kilometers to the southeast of Concepción. Our quote unquote organization is called “Vida, Autonomía, Justicia y Libertad.”
Melipeuco is in the region of the Llaim volcano, from Temuco all the way into the Andes, that is to say the border pass between the Ngulu Mapu, which would be Chile, and the Puel Mapu, which would be Argentina. Inside our “organization,” we became aware that there is a landowner in that area called García, and he started registering property rights on state-owned land and has filled them with pine trees and eucalyptuses, destroying the local fauna and flora.
When we became aware of this, we started organizing, calling on comrades from different regions: from Santiago, Concepción, Temuco, Cunco and our immediate surroundings. They are people from inside and outside Chile, Mapuches and non-Mapuches. Our goal was to recover these lands and restore them ecologically. So, inside this context of the current revolt and also in relation to the one-year anniversary of the assassination of Camilo Catrillanca, we decided to occupy the lands taken by this landowner.
We have been managing to make effective territorial control, who’s entering and who’s leaving, for a month now. But there have been Machis, Mapuche religious authorities, organizing some form or another of occupation of the land for five years, along with the comrades that came here looking for a remedy to their illnesses.
Alannis: How has the current revolt affected this action?
Tadeo: The state normally concentrates repression in the areas it’s just now colonizing, the forested lands of the so-called Araucania, or Ngulu Mapu for us. But due to the social revolt that repression has been diverted from the rural areas to Temuco, Concepción, Los Ángeles and other main cities. We took advantage of this situation to effectively take back control of this ancestral land and try to ecologically restore it. But this may also be a double-edged sword as in this region you can not only find Mapuche people, living as their ancestors did, but also colonizers, which are politically located on the right. And these right-wing colonizers are on the alert about the outsiders that come in and out of town.
We have also started talking with the, Chilean and non-Chilean, farmers living in this region, getting their support for our action.
Alannis: In the assembly you shared really beautiful words about moments of sharing the anarchist idea with the Mapuche people and how they find it. Can you share a bit about this?
Tadeo: So, one of our compañeros is a Machi. He was born in the rural area and is around our age, about 25. The Chilean system does not raise you to be a Machi, it does not teach you that culture. But you are born a Machi and it starts to manifest through you: you dream, you get sick and you start to develop your own spirituality. So, in that sense, this comrade had already started living horizontal practices, for instance asking permission from nature to enter a place, because, for us, humans and nature share the same importance.
So, one day hanging out in the traditional Mapuche ruka house that we built on the occupation, we started talking around the fire about anarchism. Like, just starting from the question “What is anarchy?” which would be a society organized without a state or “Who are anarchists?” They’re people who organize themselves horizontally to put and end to injustice in the world and want to abolish private property of the land and strive for all the resources to be shared by humanity. So, after hearing those explanations, the Mapuche comrades replied that then they are also anarchist. It’s a nice thing to discover when something that is inside your heart is also shared throughout humanity. It’s not just the European idea of anarchism, which has spread throughout the world, and maybe from an academic point of view they may differ, but human beings have practices that are anarchist in essence, like the Mapuche cosmovision of how we relate between ourselves and with nature.
Alannis: So, speaking of joy, I always ask this question, can you share with us the more incredible or surrealistic things that you have seen in the last two months? It is also important to note that today is the two-month anniversary of the start of the social revolt here so, can you share with us your memories of things that you thought that you would never see in you life?
Tadeo: So, some of us have a more generational way of seeing what’s happening. 2004, 2005 was the first regional uprising I was in, marching in the streets. And in 2005, when we were kids just finishing primary school, around 14 years old, we fought for and won our school pass for the public transportation system. Later on, in 2011, as we were attending university, we fought for free education for everybody. And that was the same generation. So now, our generation, finished with their university studies, found themselves in a world where there are no jobs for what they studied for. A world in which 50% of the people who went to university can’t find a job. And we always knew that there was something wrong, that everything was wrong. And not only us but also the other generations around us, our fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers, uncles and aunts, younger cousins…we all knew everything was wrong.
So this all caused a chain reaction that burst into the streets. And one of the best memories I have was climbing on top of a traffic light to check how many people there were in the intersection in front of the Palace of Justice. Looking in any of the cardinal directions, there was no end to the crowds of people. That was sublime. And that happened for around two weeks, everyday! It was the story of people who have the urge to do something. People who may still not know what they want, because the state censors any idea about a society without private property or without a state. But, it’s not over, we are still in the midst of the chaos of the revolt.
There is a traffic circle, Paicaví with Carreras, here in Concepción where a Telepizza was turned into a social center. It’s a place that is practically in ruins, in the sense that is covered with spray paint. During the day it’s being used for concerts, for aerial silks or juggling. But in essence is a place that is showing a different way of life, a freer way of life. People who have a job and people who don’t, people in this revolt are collaborating in this space that has become an asset of the revolt.
Also in the last month that I’ve been out in Melipeuco, the thing that most struck me for instance was the attitude or a kind of yanaconismo, which is like when indigenous people take the side of the state. So, that happens but so does the opposite, where somebody who is normally in a position where he or she has to negotiate with the state suddenly takes a stance and opposes it.
I have the experience of a comrade that is here with us, that comes from a nearby community, jumping in front of a logging machine to stop it from entering the occupation. So those memories, that fervor that he had confronting the landowner, insulting the man who everyone else bows their head to, calling him a bastard, a motherfucker and a long list of other swearwords and kicking him off the land, not letting him buy us, poison our minds with his words and money. That image of rebellion, of revolt, of having all our comrades confronting the state repression, the capitalist landowners… that image is priceless.
Alannis: Thank you very much. Do you have anything else to add?
Tadeo: This is going to transcend from the Pacific to the Atlantic, from North to South so stay firm, stay alert because a good one is coming, a good way to live is coming.
VALPARAISO ANARCHIST ASSEMBLY
Alannis: The next anarchist assembly we attended was in Valparaiso, one week after the assembly in Concepcion. And… we didn’t really know how to add this in, but our time in Valparaiso was absolutely surreal, in the best sense of the word. In one of the squats we visited, an enormous complex of buildings with a thriving garden under threat of development, the children of the squatters were playing cops and robbers, except in this case it was soldiers and demonstrators… and one 7-year-old surprised an ex-worker reporter with a squirt gun, announcing herself with, “Halt! I’m a water cannon!” Later when we went out, a street character dressed in joker makeup stopped us to let us know that, with the uprising, we will no longer observe yearly birthdays but instead weekly and daily celebrations of re-birth of the self. We picked up a totally mindblowing zine called “Anarchy in the Kingdom of Heaven,” which might be the most definitive example of non-western anarchism we’ve ever seen, in the sense that it analyzes anarchist concepts and figures like Dorothy Day and Buenaventura Durruti through the lens of indigenous South American cosmovision, rather than the other way around, like, say, a Marxist analysis of the Zapatistas. Seriously, get a copy if you ever find it. Then we saw some street theater about the evils of Monsanto, and when the players laid canned food on the stage as props a hostile audience stole the cans. The actors took a second to recover their composure before continuing, not having planned on the audience eating their props, which they did for the rest of the performance. And lastly someone told us a really cute story about people looting dog food in the first days of the revolt and giving the street dogs a feast. Valparaiso, thank you. This next interview comes to us thanks to our comrades over at A-Radio Berlin.
Alannis: Can you tell us about the anarchist assembly that took place in Valparaiso? There’s been two already, so if you could say something about how the idea came about.
Valparaiso Anarchist: The idea came from some of us in the anarchist movement, and who, even before the revolt, were questioning the lack of organization, our precarity, our dead ends in relation to the world outside of anarchism but also inside of anarchism. So, even before we were trying to think how to make an open anarchist call, which is something that hadn’t happened for a long time, and that’s not something unique to Valparaiso. The first assembly was December 18, the two-month anniversary of the revolt. As individuals we’ve been more involved in our territorial or neighborhood assemblies, dissolving ourselves in the massive and collective. But it still felt urgent for us to find support, to share space with people who, whether from before the revolt or now because of the revolt, share an anarchist perspective… so that we can have basis for ideas and practices to try to imagine a world after the destruction.
This was the reflection that motivated us, this sense that we were just anti something or against things, and not having a concrete proposal. And to try to combat this self-imposed sentence of always being marginalized because nothing satisfies us.
So, we made an open call for an assembly, an invitation to find each other and to recognize one another. The first assembly was quite broad, just sharing what we imagined when we thought of anarchy. What drew us to something called an anarchist assembly. Having in mind that there are a lot of assemblies now, why come together in an anarchist one? And something very nice happened: people who had already participated a lot in the movement felt happy to be able to get together in an open and public space with this anarchist character in the forefront. Especially after being plagued by this horrible game of isolation, self-isolation and from others, always being outside of what’s happening. Or always acting from clandestinity, which generated groups of close people organizing but nothing beyond that.
So I think this joy of feeling grateful and happy to be in that instance was very important in the first assembly.
And the second assembly, which we tried to make a bit more grounded, was about asking ourselves what we’re organizing for. What we would like to accomplish. So obviously the conversation was a bit all over the place, but I do believe that in the second assembly we generated a kind of complicity in that it seems we are motivated to try to work together towards a project, an anarchist proposal. This is very open, obviously, but I think this exercise of finding one another is beautiful first step.
We hope to continue. We agreed to on a next date and time and place. And the call is still open because we are interested in going deeper into this fracture that the revolt opened up. We don’t want it to close. I think that’s why we gathered. And I see a lot of possibilities in this, about rethinking anarchism in this territory. We talked a lot about this in the second assembly, about how we have read and adopted many ideas and references from other territories and other realities, and it’s becoming urgent to create our own. That’s an involved process, but I think that’s what we’re heading towards. To have our own reference for how to organize ourselves, what are our objectives, what are our dreams as well, without necessarily adopting anyone else’s models. We talked about this in regards to colonization, and the attitudes and discourses coming from places that occupy another kind of position in the global economy, and that obviously don’t share our situation.
That’s how we begin to ground ourselves as Valparaiso and, more generally, Region 5 in Chile, because some comrades come from outside of Valparaiso, which is interesting because we could create links across territories, near but not so near.
Both assemblies were enriching emotionally speaking, even if in the assemblies we don’t openly call it emotional. I would point out again this joy of gathering and of being part once again of something shared. And the subsequent possibility that we could build something. This depression that normal life forced us into, the hatred of normal life but without searching for another way of living was killing us slowly. This kind of exercise fills us with life, a chance to breathe.
SANTIAGO ANARCHIST CONGRESS
Alannis: After the anarchist assemblies in Concepcion and Valparaiso, we attended an anarchist congress on January 5 in Santiago. Over 150 people attended, half as inviduals and half as participants from about 30 groups or projects. 9 groups in particular had 15 minutes each to formally present their organizing and their hopes of what they wanted to come out of the congress. If that sounds like a long meeting, yes. It lasted over nine hours. Some might criticize that as time that could be better spent on getting something else done, but for us it spoke to the enthusiasm and idealism that this current moment is providing anarchists with.
We interviewed three of the groups formally represented at the congress: La Asamblea Libertaria de Santiago, Grupo Solenopsis, and Grupo Eco-Anarquista.
INTERVIEW: ASAMBLEA LIBERTARIA DE SANTIAGO
Alannis: Here we are with a group of participants who are NOT SPOKESPERSONS from the Asamblea Libertaria de Santiago. Briefly, could you tell us a little bit about the assembly and how it’s going?
Asamblea Libertaria Santiago: The assembly started just about a year ago. I think the uprising took us a little bit by surprise, the same as everybody… And well, for the moment it’s basically changed the assembly’s whole routine - we’ve suspended the weekly meetings, and started holding special assemblies. As for the assembly in the context of the uprising, at first it was mostly just individuals expressing themselves – there wasn’t a lot of organization like “let’s go to the marches as a bloc,” it was really pretty loose.
For a while the assembly was kind of thinning out, because of time more than anything – with the curfew it was really hard for us to all get home in time after a meeting, and since the assembly covers the whole metropolitan area, we’re from all different parts of the city – you can find members of the assembly all across Santiago. Now you could say we’re taking advantage of the vacation season – since it’s summer here – by making use of propaganda right now more than anything, and getting back into holding conferences in public spaces, and working more as a community.
Alannis: What kind of relationship does your assembly have with the assemblies that have been forming only recently in the context of the revolt? And with the more cabildo style town hall type assemblies?
Asamblea Libertaria Santiago: Well, there are some other anarchist assemblies like the Asamblea Libertaria Barrancas on the west side or the Asamblea Libertaria de la Cordillera on the south side that weren’t exactly born out of the general Santiago one, but with the uprising we saw we had to respond to the more local, neighborhood needs, especially because of these cabildo town-hall meetings. I’ve personally argued a lot with different people at the town-halls, and that wears you out. In some of the neighborhood assemblies and the town-halls it’s difficult as an anarchist to try to rally people, because they discard your ideas right away – saying things like “None of this anarchist shit, this is pure hate and nonsense…” The usual. In this sense it’s really difficult to rally people together, but on the other hand it’s also necessary. There still are dissident voices in those meetings, and I think the territorial anarchist assemblies are trying to provide that, beyond just the Santiago one which is more central and ties together individuals from all over the city.
Alannis: Is there anything that participants here from the Asamblea Libertaria de Santiago want to take away from the congress today, like for example federating with other anarchist groups in Santiago?
Asamblea Libertaria Santiago: Yes, we were talking about it last week – about what we hope to come out of this. And basically what was discussed a lot was the idea of coming here without so many expectations, but primarily to make contacts and networks so that possibly in the future a federation or something of the kind can be better developed – as a way to be able to coordinate everything which is generally too dispersed. Many people are here as individuals, so as we’ve said our idea is also to be open and to seek out contacts. We passed around a notebook precisely because the idea is that if in the end this doesn’t work out here, we’ll be able to try and put something else together with these same contacts.
Alannis: And, I have a question about the openness of the group – because in contrast there are other groups and collectives here that are more closed. So, could you explain the reasoning behind and how the experience has been having a more open group?
Asamblea Libertaria Santiago: Sure, well clearly we can understand the reticence within the anarchist movement for reasons of security. As we can see anarchists are persecuted by the government and by the whole state apparatus. But our assembly is so open due to the fact that we strictly disengage from discussions that have to do with anti-prison or insurrectionist movements – there might well be individual affinities with these movements, that’s up to each individual – we don’t condemn it, but we don’t actively promote it either. What we do try to promote through the assemblies are anarchist ideals. As anarchists, we understand that organizations should not be cults – the idea is that more people adopt an anarchist outlook, just that. By being an open assembly, it invites quote-unquote “civic participation” to become anarchist participation. For example, I got involved in the assembly through an activity they were doing in a plaza – I made some contacts, I joined, and I started working with the assembly.
I think there are certain advantages to this model, because so far it’s shown more stability than the majority of the other anarchist groups around, and it has grown a lot. It’s really extensive despite the fact that understandably there are people who suddenly disappear for a time and then come back. But through this same dynamic of openness new perspectives are added all the time.
And I just want to mention that those of us you’re interviewing are speaking as individuals, we do not mean to represent the assembly as a whole or anything like that. I’d also like to point out, to stress really, that what the assembly most encourages is the development of individual action. Rather than an agglomeration of collectives, it is more an intersection of individuals who each contribute according to their skills and abilities, and work to further develop the skills and abilities of others.
Alannis: Thank you so much for speaking with us. Last question: is there anything beautiful, or striking that you’ve seen in the last three months that will never be known unless you tell it?
Asamblea Libertaria Santiago: On the day of one of the biggest marches we all got together, and when we were coming back… I remember it felt like a movie, because there were barricades on every corner for kilometers, and they were huge. And as we got further from the center I had the impression that the barricades were getting smaller and smaller until there were just a few candles and this boy sitting on the curb just outside of where we were going. One of us asked him what he was doing there, and he said that one of the youths the army had killed in La Serena was a good friend of his, and that the candles were for him and for all of the fallen. That image really stuck in my mind – of all the different kinds of fire throughout the protests.
INTERVIEW: GRUPO SOLENOPSIS
Alannis: So here are with Grupo Solenopsis, and, tell us about your work!
Grupo Solenopsis: Well, Grupo Solenposis was formed recently, born out of a cycle of workshops that we have been doing for three years now in the Ateneo Anarquista de Santiago, an anarchist social center. We saw that the workshops were going well over the years and so we decided to form a collective and start generating articles, propaganda, infographics, and also to generate networks with other groups. We’re open to people who want to do popular education with us even if they’re not part of the collective. We always have space available at the Ateneo Anarquista Santiago. Our primary focuses are feminist, ecological, and anti-colonial, which, for us, are important parts of everything that being anarchist and antiauthoritarian implies.
Alannis: And what is Grupo Solenopsis looking to get out of this congress?
Grupo Solenopsis: Well, one of our lines of action is propaganda, so we can collaborate for example with a group that works in graphic propaganda on social media, or an audiovisual collective that can generate short videos about ideas and practical tools in the context of the popular revolt that’s been going on since October 18th, such as: digital self-defense, aspects of the Domestic Security Law, the Anti-masking Law and Anti-Barricade Law- things that effect people directly that we think people need to know about, disseminating that information as a service, a tool, to join up and protect themselves and organize in the time of struggle.
The last cycle of workshops that we did in 2019 was called Tools for Critical Anarchist Research/Investigation. Maybe this year we will change the theme to be more action than investigation/research.
A very important motivation for our group is the criticism of academia, of the construction of knowledge from a patriarchal, Eurocentric academia which uses European authors and social theories to analyze social movements and social struggles in Latin America. It seems to us like we need to resist that, and combat the hegemony that the university has over the creation of knowledge. That’s why we stand behind and support what Maria Galindo, a Bolivian anarcha-feminist from the collective Mujeres Creando says- she defends the idea of creating theories from below, in horizontal autonomous spaces to destroy the monopoly that academia has over knowledge.
Alannis: Lastly, earlier you said something about how this movement has been able to continue without a vanguard, without any political party taking control of it. If that’s the case, and the movement has been so anarchistic, why an anarchist congress?
Grupo Solenopsis: Well in my opinion this kind of congress is necessary for broader coordination within anarchism. We realized that there are a ton of collectives and groups that were operating independently but we didn’t know what they were doing, then all of a sudden we would run into each other, or we would find out accidentally, say on Instagram that within the same area or really nearby there was another anarchist collective doing activities that would have complimented what we were doing really well, and maybe having that information mapped out could have strengthened the movement and can do so now.
On the other hand, within the movement in general, the people are realizing that they have been organizing themselves in an anarchic way and that actually they’re not interested in political parties. There hasn’t been any unity among all of the anarchist groups, which I think we need in order to stand up to the political parties and ensure that they don’t monopolize the movement and speak over the people.
INTERVIEW: GRUPO ECO ANARQUISTA
Alannis: Greetings and who are we talking to?
Cesar: Hello, I am César from the eco-anarchist group GEA, anti-militarist and eco-anarchist.
Denise: and I’m Denise from the eco-anarchist and anti-militarist group from the coastal town of Quintero, one of the Zonas de Sacrificio, or Sacrifice Zones in Chile. A Zona de Sacrificio is when the environment and the people who live in an area are affected by sicknesses caused by the industry in the area, or it can also be because of natural causes, like for example, volcanoes. But what we’re concerned with are the industries, since they emit many contaminants that cause cancer.
Cesar: Quintero has 6 thermoelectric plants, a copper plant, a cement-producing plant, these are factories that use the most carcinogenic kind of coal that exists, these days it’s prohibited in many countries, but here in Chile they continue to use it.
Alannis: And, since the social revolt on the 18th of October, how has the militancy changed around ecological issues, and how have your activities transformed? For example the issue of buck shot (perdigones), had you guys experienced that before?
Denise: Well in 2018, the year before the social revolt, there was a significant gas leak that affected the inhabitants of Quintero. It was horrible, because people would faint, or lose the ability to walk, and there were 3 or 4 mass marches against the industries, and one of those marches went along the beach. Like, Loncura Beach or along the coastline you could say, and each time we got closer and closer to the factories, the navy shot pellets at us, and the water cannons shot at us too.
Alannis: Did those experiences prepare you at all for the repression that’s happening now?
Cesar: We, personally, were prepared, but most people from Quintero weren’t prepared. When the first protests of the social revolt happened there it was mostly the police shooting buck shot and tear gas cannisters, there weren’t police tanks or water cannons yet. Quintero rose up the day after Santiago, and the second day in Quintero, so the 20th of October, the repression came down hard, not just from police but also the PDI and the military. PDI agents were shooting at us, they grabbed a girl by her hair and dragged her to the ground, people were running, it was horrible. And that’s where our anti-military ideology came from. Because if we abolish the military, it’s like cutting off the arms of the government.
Alannis: Have there been instances of desertions or other interesting stories from inside the armed forces of Chile during the social revolt?
Denise: When the social revolt happened, a story came out about a mother and her son, and the mom said “Son, if you go into the armed forces, and you point your gun at someone, or you shoot at someone innocent, you cannot come back home.” And that affects the young people, who are the ones who do the military service, almost obligatorily here in Chile, and obviously they are going to choose their families over going out and killing people.
Cesar: We want to propagate the idea that we don’t need an army or a police force because we, the people, we are not sick in the head, we’re not going to start killing each other if there’s no army or police, we know how to control ourselves, we all have personal control—you, me, the people listening.
INTERVIEW: OCTOBER 18 DEFENSE COALITION FOR THE PRISONERS OF THE REVOLT
Alannis: Besides the territorial based assemblies and the anarchist ones, there has evolved another kind of assembly around the kind of work needed to keep the revolt going, like supporting the prisoners and defendants from the revolt.
Alannis: Who are we talking to and what role are you taking in this social uprising? Francisco: My name is Francisco Solar and I’m part of the coordinadora Dieciocho de Octubre, the defense coalition to free political prisoners from the October 18th uprisings. I also partake in an anarchist assembly that was formed in the heat of the current uprising. In regards to the anarchist assembly, it has also served as a platform to organize meetings and events in support of political prisoners from the revolt as well as other things. The coordinadora specifically was formed a little over a month ago as a platform to converge multiple groups with a variety of political views with the mutual goal of freeing political prisoners of the uprising and to bring attention to the concept of political prisoners in this context. Alannis: Can you explain to us how the defense coalition works and its organizing? Francisco: The coordinadora is open and made up of a lot of organizations which are also open in nature. There are unions, social organizations, anarchist groups, leftist groups, marxist groups. It operates through multiple working groups. There are around 8 working groups that are only recently being finalized and beginning to operate. Due to the varying political views of the members it took a lot of effort to get the defense coalition to truly function. But now we’re beginning to see the results of the working groups, like the panel discussions that are happening this week, different rallies happening outside the jails and the courts. The coordinadora also has a presence in the protests that are part of the uprising. There’s a working group for communications and propaganda that’s in charge of raising awareness of the political mission of our group. There’s another in charge of gathering supplies to meet the basic needs of prisoners. A working group in charge of being in contact with other organizations on a national and international level, and a working groups in charge of collecting the information of all those who have been imprisoned during the uprising because there are a lot of people in jail awaiting trial and as of now it has been very hard to find out the exact number of comrades who are in jail. Alannis: Is there an approximate guess of the number of people imprisoned due to the uprising? Francisco: The official number of people in jail awaiting trial is about 2,500, and that’s throughout Chile. But from what we’ve heard from lawyers who’ve visited and comrades on the inside is that the number is much smaller. Perhaps the number of people who have been processed through the jail in total was 2,500, but I would say the current number of prisoners is currently closer to 1,500. There are people who have been released, especially people who were arrested for looting, but the people who remain are people who have been charged for molotovs or arson. Some people still remain imprisoned for disorderly conduct but those are isolated cases. In Santiago specifically the official number is about 900. But the majority of comrades awaiting trial in men’s facilities are in the Santiago Uno facility, and our guess is that the number of people held there for activities relating to the uprising is 90 to 100. So the actual number is much smaller than the official count. Alannis: Are there any cases in particular that demonstrate how the state intends to try these cases or their strategy in general for repressing the revolt?
Francisco: The thing that has been most striking is the use of the Domestic Security Law. It’s an old law and seldom enforced because it carries a really light sentence, but what it allows the state to do is it guarantees pre-trial detention. The law has mostly been applied to people who are charged with minor crimes, like rioting. Normally if you were arrested and charged with rioting, and only rioting nothing else, chances are you would be released on your own recognizance. This is the case with 3 kids who are part of the Movimiento Juvenil Lautaro who are in the maximum security facility, accused of an attack on a railroad track. Because the Domestic Security Law has been enforced it has guaranteed their imprisonment. For people who have been accused of carrying incendiary devices, such as molotovs, the state doesn’t find it necessary to apply this law because they can be accused with the Arms Control Law instead, which also guarantees pre-trial detention. I don’t know much about the history of the Domestic Security Law, I believe it was created in the 1920s—Ex-Worker Fact Check it was actually the 1930s—but it has not been used by the state much. Pinochet used it a couple of times but in calculated ways and in times of social crises. The Arms Control Law is really striking because it was created by Allende to disarm the Cordones Industriales, who you could say were the most class conscious sectors of workers, and who took up arms because they could foresee the 1973 coup. So what does Allende do? He passes this law, disarming the Cordones Industriales, and paved the way for his own coup. In fact, the law was barely touched during the dictatorship. It was Michelle Bachelet’s second government that really added on to it due to more and more conflict and student protests in the streets. Molotovs were, and continue to be commonly used in the streets of Santiago so one of the ways to attempt to end this was to make the sentences of this law stricter. This led from Molotov charges previously being a matter of probation to now facing mandatory minimums of 3 to 4 years. Today, they use this law all the time. Normally, here in Chile, if you don’t have a record, they have to sentence you to at least 5 years or more to imprison you. If the sentence is, say, four and a half years, it’s just probation. But the way they changed the Arms Control Law, now if you are charged for a Molotov and sentenced to 3 years, you go to prison. Alannis: Is the coordinadora also supporting people who have been arrested for looting, for example, and already released? I would imagine they have legal costs and upcoming trials. Francisco: That’s a complicated topic because the current uprising has lots of people who haven’t been politically involved before. Most of those who have been arrested are people with no political trajectory. Our stance as a coordinadora is that anyone imprisoned from the uprising is there for political reasons, in a context of violating the Domestic Security Law which treats them as an enemy of the state. So, we consider them political prisoners. The issue is whether they do or don’t recognize themselves as political prisoners. There are many who do, we have many comrades in jail currently and we give them all of our solidarity and work with them. As a coordinadora we are also working with prisoners who have not been politicized. Talking to their lawyers, working with their families to at least make them aware that they are being tried for political reasons, which in one way or another makes them political prisoners and that political imprisonment has a history, a history of struggle which we share with those imprisoned to see if they are interested in being part of this history. That’s the work we’re doing with this coordinadora, to see if people want to engage with this political struggle. If they don’t want to, that’s completely fine, but at lease we can show them, like, “look, this has been the history of political imprisonment in Chile, these have been it’s characteristics, these have been it’s consequences, this is how it lives on.” And we can work together from there. We are just starting this work. We don’t even have complete information or an exact count of all the people arrested, and part of the reason why is many of those who have been arrested for looting, for example, come from a life of crime and have no interest in politicizing their actions. Which, there’s nothing wrong with that and I encourage them to continue on their path. But there are many people under arrest whose interest is the destruction of all things that oppress them. And in this context it is at least worth a try to work with them. Alannis: And what’s the deal with the CAS high security prisons and the division between where political and social prisoners are kept? Francisco: 2004 was the year that the last members of guerrilla groups, ones that were operating at the beginning of democracy, were released from prison. This is when the division ended within the prisons between political and common prisoners. After that the CAS, the High Security Prison that was created for political prisoners after democracy, began to fill with common prisoners. It’s important to note that, in Chile, we have always had political prisoners. Maybe there was like, one year where there weren’t. There have always been comrades who have kept fighting and, as a result, who have been imprisoned for political motivations. After 2004 people who have been imprisoned for political reasons started sharing space with regular prisoners, for lack of a better term.
Nowadays the detention facility you’re sent to is just determined on the crime. For example people who are imprisoned for incendiary devices or molotovs are not locked up in the CAS prison—instead they end up in a penitentiary with common prisoners. The cases of people getting terrorist charges or bank robbery charges end up in high security prison. When we were arrested for the Caso Bombas case in 2010 we ended up in maximum security prison and immediately afterward in the CAS because we were being accused as terrorists and the case had a lot of media attention. People involved in the Caso Bombas Dos case are also in the CAS. Our comrade Juaquin Garcia, who is imprisoned for a bombing of the San Miguel police station, was also placed in the CAS. So it is the type of crime that dictates where someone is held. Most people who have been imprisoned as part of the uprising are being held in Santiago Uno, which is a common jail. There are just a few people kept in maximum security prison such as the people from the Movimiento Juventud Lautaro, the Lautaro Youth Movement, and specifically the people who have been charged with arson, because there has been a lot of media attention regarding the burning of metro stations and buses on October 18th. So the people whose cases draw the most media attention are kept in the maximum security prison and then transferred to the CAS, which is right next door. Alannis: Recently the police’ church was attacked during the protests. Online there are circulating many theories that it was a set-up by the state, that the police did it or let it happen. Do accusations or theories regarding set-ups, montajes, or police infiltration complicate your work in supporting prisoners? Francisco: Well in my personal opinion—this is not the official opinion of the coordinadora—centering conversations around infiltration and set-ups is debilitating to our work and our movement, especially anarchists and those in the struggle, and it strengthens the state. Saying that everything is a set-up is saying that we don’t have the capability to confront the enemy, to engage in bold actions, to shake things up, to do everything we’ve seen these past two months. In another way it’s also saying that everything is controlled by the state and that it is omnipresent and all powerful and that nothing can be done against it. That’s why I have my reservations regarding those theories and why I am totally against them. In regards to our coordinadora and how it can affect our work with prisoners, we discussed this a lot in our first few meetings. Many family members spoke up about their children being innocent, that they had been framed. We were able to make it clear at least that the coordinadora will support them, whether the person who was arrested is guilty or not. Regardless of whether they committed the actions they’ve been accused of we recognize that they are prisoners of the uprising and since we support the uprising we support the prisoners. That’s our perspective as anarchists and as part of the coordinadora. Alannis: We are on day 82 of the revolt. With all that’s happening, one has to choose wisely where to dedicate your time and energy. Do you think there’s a tension between efforts of continuing to fight on the streets and stepping back to support the prisoners? Francisco: I think that they go hand in hand. And because of what I just said at the end of the last question; I know that supporting and working with political prisoners is motivated by the fact that we support the revolt. In order to have the revolt expand and strengthen we need to support political prisoners. Being politically imprisoned is an inseparable consequence of the revolt, these are our comrades that are we are missing out on the streets. We can’t act foolishly and forget the people who are being imprisoned by the state, many of whom are close to us. The political prisoners of the uprising are a separate phenomena from prior political prisoners, not to say that prior prisoners shouldn’t be supported, but engaging in support for political prisoners of the revolt is supporting the revolt. Alannis: And what can people in Chile do to support the prisoners from this revolt? Francisco: It’s complicated because basically the work with political prisoners entails taking care of their basic needs like food, clothes and also at the same it’s engaging in a political discourse. The work of the coordinadora is mostly that kind of stuff, on one hand providing support with direct assistance like providing support to family members, speaking to lawyers, putting together care packages, and on the other hand it’s taking a political stance regarding prisons. So I think it’s up to each group to decide how we can create a larger visibility around prisoners and their trials, with the understanding that these prisoners are also part of the struggle. As a reflection, in the first few days of the revolt no one considered targeting prisons for attack, and this revolt in the streets has not spread to the prisons. I go to the prisons regularly, at lease twice a month, and this revolt is not occurring on the inside. And furthermore, just a couple of months before the revolt there were strong mobilizations within the jails with a lot of prisoners going on hunger strike because of changes to the penal code, making it harder to qualify for parole.
So what’s happened with all that momentum? All the conditions were there for the jails to burst and nothing happened. What was missing? I can’t explain it. Because this movement was still strong when the hunger strikes were over. I don’t know if people got exhausted fighting or if the repression they faced was really strong, I don’t know. Alannis: For our listeners outside of Chile is there something they can do to support the prisoners? Francisco: Starting January 13 there will be a week of actions for the prisoners of the uprising. There’s a call out for people to protest outside of Chilean consulates, it’s likely that we will release a statement from the coordinadora, and we will at least make that call out to increase visibility of the situation in Chilean prisons. There was already overcrowding in prisons but after all of these arrests it has become brutal.
Chilean prisons are particularly tough, there are studies that found in Chilean prisons there are more deaths than in countries like Colombia and Brasil, even though those countries have a higher morality rate in general. Here there are less deaths on the streets but more in jails. Chilean prisons are torturous. And in my experience, comparing them to European prisons, the conditions here are a lot more brutal and intense than in Spain, for example. Alannis: Do you have anything else you’d like to add? Francisco: We’re on instagram, we’re on facebook, we have an email. Prison work is always complicated because it brings up lots of feelings and it’s even harder to work with family members of those who’ve been imprisoned. It’s my first time participating in a group that works with relatives to such a great extent. Having to reach consensus with people who don’t share the same political ideologies, and wanting to propose a narrative of struggle with family members who only want their relatives to be free and safe becomes really complicated. Especially if they are young, are having a hard time, and are facing their first arrest, which is the case with most these prisoners. All these factors make it difficult to speak up on the concept of abolishing prisons, which as a coordinadora we stand for. And people we work with ask us, “how are you against prisons? How can there be no prisons?” Alannis: And, as a last question, are there any memories or scenes that stick out to you from this revolt? Francisco: I have seen so many beautiful gestures and sad situations. I am thinking of a situation where we were walking home with comrades after the curfew. We saw an older man, who had clearly been affected by the dictatorship back in ‘73, just banging on a trash bin alone, threatening to soldiers on the streets. His son looked really worried and was trying to get him to go back home, but the old man just kept getting in their faces, and that affected me a lot. Because, man, just imagine this older man reliving the trauma from the military coup of 1973. That is the first image that comes to mind when thinking of the past two months. I can think of beautiful moments too, like of mutual aid during confrontations that I had never seen before. Like older people congratulating encapuchados who were fighting police. Two months ago that wouldn’t have happened, they would have criticized them… and now they don’t.
INTERVIEW: ANARCHO-SYNDICALIST UNION AFUSAP
Alannis: Our last interview this episode is with AFUSAP, an anarcho-syndicalist healthcare workers union that has been involved in both street medic and community health projects during the uprising.
Alannis: Alright, where are we and who are we talking to?
AFUSAP: I’m a spokesperson of AFUSAP, a labor union based around primary care within the public healthcare system in Chile. We represent workers in about 12 family healthcare centers, or CESFAMs, throughout the Metropolitan Region, meaning Santiago and its outskirts, and those family healthcare centers serve about 800,000 people.
We are currently on the roof of CESFAM Number 1 because this is where we have our office. This CESFAM was one of the first clinics to be built here in Santiago and culturally the building is very important, it’s also still one of the biggest healthcare centers in Santiago. But, for years there was a building here on the roof that was fairly abandoned and in poor condition, and the space became ours after an occupation that lasted about a year. Slowly, we’ve fixed the building and now it’s pretty cozy, and it’s not just for us other groups use it to organize too, students, workers, whoever.
Alannis: And I just want to emphasize that while this office is technically a squat, it is like the nicest squat we’ve ever seen. It’s well taken care of and comfortable and beautiful, can you tell us about these murals on the exterior of the space?
AFUSAP: Yes. We made the murals last year. Besides having the AFUSAP logo, we wanted to represent Elena Caffarena, who was a libertarian feminist libertarian who was involved in women’s emancipation and suffrage. She organized an incredible amount of women in her work. Next to her is Clotario Blest, a chilean anarcho-syndicalist founder in 1957 of the first CUT, the biggest trade union in Chile. It had a uniquely revolutionary and libertarian character, autonomous from political parties, but that changed in 1962 when it was taken over by the Communist Party, which meant the firing of Clotario Blest.
Later he formed other important organizations, like the Revolutionary Left Movement, the MIR, which ended up also forcing him out when it taken over by Marxists, but originally it was founded by several Anarcho-Syndicalists.
Then, we wanted to represent a Mapuche woman, who is carrying her flag with a Mapuche star, in struggle for the liberation of their territory from capitalism. Because of our libertarian character, it’s our duty to work with the people who are oppressed. So have direct contact and do direct work with the Mapuche people in which we try to support them here in Santiago in their organizing, propaganda, and health services.
Alannis: So, can you tell us a little bit more about AFUSAP? How many members are there, how long as it been active?
AFUSAP: So there used to be a similar union called APRUS that some of us belonged to, and we wanted to give it a more revolutionary character. That’s the only kind of syndicalism we believe it—we don’t believe unions are for securing, I dunno, gift baskets or whatnot to workers. We believe syndicalism must be built on objectives related to social and cultural change of society. So in November 2013, about 100 members of APRUS got together in an assembly that lasted the entire day and we drafted a statute declaring the libertarian and anarcho-syndicalist principles of the union: horizontality, mutual aid, direct action, self-management, all decisions made in assembly.
We are a union that prioritizes the social and political education of its members, rather than the usual form of a client-oriented union based on economic rewards. Within our statute there is also an item (which the government doesn’t allow) that keeps members of other political parties from affiliating with the union. This allows us to prevent the scenario of a political party taking AFUSAP over, which is what always happens with the Communist and Socialist party.
Nowadays we have around 450 members. Whenever someone wants to affiliate with AFUSAP, we hand them our statute and a flyer with our principles, presenting anarcho-syndicalism. They make decisions based off that, and decide whether to join or not. Regardless, that does not mean they are militant anarchists per se. There aren’t that many capital A anarchists, but almost everyone agrees with the libertarian aspirations of the union, and most importantly they put those principles into practice, even if they’re not carrying black flags in the streets.
Alannis: What kind of role has AFUSAP had in the last few months of revolt?
AFUSAP: Within the revolt, we have mostly been concerned with territorial organizing. There are 2 CESFAM centers in 5 of the municipalities of Santiago: Santiago Centro, Estacion Central, Cerrillos, Pedro Aguirre Cerda, and Maipú. These are densely populated areas with vulnerable, poor populations. Each CESFAM takes care of about 100,000 people. We have made sure our affiliates prepare assemblies not only with the workers of the CESFAMs, but with the people who use the services too. By generating processes of territorial assemblies we promote the self-education of the population to generate processes of popular sovereignty, in which the people are slowly empowered and encouraged to govern their own decisions, leaving aside the processes of institutionality. This has worked well.
We also have a working group dedicated to the frontlines who tend to those fighting in the streets.
Alannis: Great, thank you!
Alannis: And finally, to close out this epic episode, we’d like to include some poetry. We interpreted the first two poems from Matías Catrileo, the Mapuche warrior murdered by police in 2008. The last, well, we don’t really know where it came from… it just showed up in our notes. Maybe we wrote it? Just kidding. Besides, even if we did write it, it came from someone else.
An untitled poem by Matías Catrileo
That song died, That song that said free people Could be born in this fucking nation
And that’s how My sad generation grew up
Stepping between tears and hopelessness Listening to punk rock Emptying our pain out Into a glass of alcohol Listening to punk rock Emptying our pain out Into a glass of alcohol
And In this story That’s how a handful of dreams Died Dreams that, once long ago Shined in a child’s eyes
And while I love you and you love me It’s not the same Your lips no longer taste Of honey, but tobacco
And I could die Waiting for the reason why
“The Wind’s Embrace,” Matías Catrileo
Sometimes All the hope in the world Is interpreted in a blind child Seeking freedom.
And every body in the world trembles Hearing the cry of a wounded people
Upon opening their eyes And seeing the colors of the earth Humanity is flooded with an explosive joy Life and sky once again paint a free world Freedom
The child hurries faster and faster Running through the countryside As though it will never end
She takes the hands of the pueblo into hers She invites them to the forest To run without the boundaries of fences Of wires Of uniforms with firearms that block our path
The people will laugh, will cry Will dream and love in freedom Because there will be no government nor city No democracy nor dictator No one will rule us No one will govern us No one will touch our freedom Because without money Without bloody capital Without the bourgeois classes and their exploitation No one will be able to buy away our freedom
Anarchy Free anarchy Freedom
And our last poem, The Ballad of Negro Matapacos
Negro Matapacos Is high in heaven Peeing on the soldiers’ helmets Extinguishing teargas
He howls with Loukanikos Over the curfew’s siren
Together They sink their teeth Into the wheels of the night Puncturing holes with their canines New stars in the sky
The students’ hands Remember the fur Of Negro Matapacos The hands of the police Will never known His restless tenderness
In a certain way We are all Abandoned dogs In rebellion We’re closer to you Than we are to our governments
In the asphalt of Santiago On every street in Chile They are your paws, Matapacos That line our path
Abandoned dogs In revolt
Alannis: And that’s it for this episode of Radio Evasión…and probably Radio Evasión as a whole. For coverage of all the action coming up in March, April, and May… please consult our gear wishlist and help us get prepared to make a documentary! Again, the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Clara: On one night one of our gringo reporters crossed paths with some enthusiastic and drunken encapuchados who proceeded to run down the entire story of the past months of revolt. Moved, but in a hurry, our reporter grasped for a polite moment to exit the rambling drunken conversation, and said, “Thank you compas, good luck in your struggle.” The little group of friends objected, raising their hands and repeating “No no no no no,” until one took our reporter by the shoulder and said, “Compa, it’s our struggle.” Wherever you’re from and wherever you are, in Chile or elsewhere, consider yourself invited to evade capitalism, the state and all authority. This struggle is everywhere, and it needs all of us.