Chile Cancels Climate and APEC Summits as People Demand an End to Austerity

The government of Chile has announced that it will not host two major international summits as it faces mounting pressure from mass anti-austerity protests. The government finally yielded to calls for the November APEC trade summit and the UN’s December COP25 climate conference to be cancelled as the international community responded in shock at the brutal repression of protestors.

“Your president can cancel global conferences on trade and the environment with APEC and the COP conferences that were planned in the coming weeks. But he must also cancel the attacks on people, the violence perpetrated against people standing up against authority. And he must cancel the austerity measures that are driving the people of Chile to despair. Any country has to accept responsibility for a minimum living wage, for pensions on which people can survive and retire with dignity” said Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary in a message of solidarity.

Trade unions in Chile have laid out ten demands to the government, including calls for minimum living wages and pensions, effective protections of people’s fundamental rights at work, and a reduction of the working week to a maximum of 40 hours. Putting forward solutions that are proven to address inequality, the unions call on the government to strengthen collective bargaining, to build social dialogue and guarantee the right to strike.

“The president’s decision to cancel the COP25 summit shows yet again that social justice and climate justice are deeply connected. Last year, Brazil’s far-right Bolsonaro government reneged on a commitment to host the COP, and now Chile’s President Piñera has had to cancel as a direct result of misery and anger caused by his regressive policies. Another chance for governments to halt the climate emergency has been lost,” said Sharan Burrow.

With the highest level of inequality of all the OECD countries, the current public mobilisation is the country’s largest, but by no means the first since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship, with large protests taking place in 2006, 2011 and 2013. As a poster child of the IMF and the World Bank, Chile has put all the country’s water resources into private hands, while privatisation of education, health and other vital services has further impoverished millions of people.

“This model of economy has failed working people. You cannot fuel wealth for the corporate sector and the one percent and leave people in poverty in despair. (…) The call from the unions and the people of Chile must be heeded. The eyes of the world continue to watch and the ITUC stands with you at every turn,” said Burrow.

With popular anger increasing across Latin America, the world’s most unequal region, the ITUC has been supporting its affiliates across the continent as they push back against destructive austerity policies imposed by right-wing governments. Most recently, Argentina’s unions were central to the defeat of the Macri government and the election of Alberto Fernández.

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