Tag Archive | "Chile"

Latin America: Protests Break Out over Signing of TPP


Protests have broken out in Peru, Chile, and Mexico since last week’s signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

Around 1,500 people from Colectivo Dignidad, a youth moment concerned with defending human rights and creating spaces for personal, intellectual and social reflections, took to the streets of Lima on Thursday to demonstrate their discontent against Peruvian president, Ollanta Humala, who signed the agreement.

Students and members of other social movements moved along the main avenues of Lima with the aim of reaching Congress. However, police blocked the protesters and fired tear gas into the crowd during a series of clashes.

In Chile, one of the movements involved, Chile Better Without TPP (CMSTPP) said that the TPP “threatens human rights”. Many of the protesters voiced concern over the use of seeds, definitions of water, land, and national rights, and indigenous groups.

One of the coordinators of CMSTPP, Paulina Acevedo, spoke to TelesurTv to voice her concerns. “I want a country where our sovereignty and the sovereign rights of our population are protected, and not violated by corporations.” She went on to highlight concerns about “commercially secret treaties” in which information isn’t readily made available.

Mexico’s National Worker’s Union (SNTE) and other socialist movements have fervently shunned the agreement, citing there was little consultation with workers and spoke of how lives of people in the countryside will be affected.

SNTE is against the treaty as it was “negotiated without consultation, but also because it will bring serious consequences for Mexico, United States, Chile, Canada and Peru,” said one of the SNTE leaders in Mexico City’s iconic Zocalo.

In addition, further concerns were raised by Mexican Network of Action Against Free Trade (RMALC). They state the TPP deepens “food dependency, inequality, poverty, malnutrition, environmental degradation, and rural migration caused by NAFTA and government policies in favor of large agribusiness corporations and the green revolution model. Likewise, it would represent a serious threat to the rights of farmers to exchange their own seeds and grow their own food.”.

In summary RMALC concludes the real existence of the agreement is for the US to maintain its “hegemony” against the rise of the Chinese superpower.

 

TPP countries. In dark green: currently in negotiations; in light green: announced interest (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

TPP countries. In dark green: the current signees; in light green: announced interest (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Controversial Deal

The TPP is one of the world’s biggest multinational trade pacts, accounting for around 40% of the global economy. The agreement was signed on 4th February by ministers from the 12 participating nations in Auckland, New Zealand. Each participating nation now has two years to ratify the accord.

The stated focus of the pact lies in strengthening economic ties between the member states by reducing tariffs and thereby creating economic development within these new regulations.

Beyond tariff controls, the pact covers a range of issues, from workers’ rights to intellectual property protection in the 12 Pacific nations.

These far-reaching regulations have been at the heart of criticism of the trade deal, which many say will favour corporate interests over society, the environment, and even democracy.

In a publication by Alfred de Zayas, first independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order of the Human Rights Council for the UN, prior to the signing of the agreement, several pertinent questions were raised.

De Zayas affirmed that “trade is not an end in itself, but must be seen in the context of the international human rights regime, which imposes binding legal obligations on States. Trade agreements are not ‘stand-alone’ legal regimes, but must conform with fundamental principles of international law, including transparency and accountability. They must not delay, circumvent, undermine or make impossible the fulfilment of human rights treaty obligations.”

The Latin American representation comes from Chile, Mexico, and Peru.

Despite the controversy, President of the Council of Ministers of Peru, Pedro Catering, still believes “this is a great step forward for the economic development of Peru”.

Foreign Minister to Chile, Heraldo Munoz previously predicted “robust democratic discussion” in his South American nation, whilst interior minister, Jorge Burgos, defended the treaty, assuring that commercial agreements were “approved by the majority”.

 

 

However, economists and Nobel Prize laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman deem the trade agreement to be be detrimental to people’s quality of life, given the negations weren’t openly transparent.

 

The world health organisation expressed concern how the TPP could potentially limit the availability of accessible medicines in order to protect the patents of pharmaceutical companies.

This would potentially medicines involved with cancer treatment, medicines affecting HIV/AIDS cures. This lead Javier Llamoza from International Action for Heath (AISREDGE) to assert that the “TPP doesn’t respect human rights”.

 

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Chile: More Than 330 Dead Whales Washed Up on Southern Coast


The bodies of 337 whales have washed up on the southern coast of Chile, in one of the largest recorded beachings in history. The cause of the whales’ deaths has not yet been determined, though human intervention has been ruled out.

Due to the remoteness of the area, amongst a series of fjords and islets in the Aysen region of Patagonia, scientists have so far been unable to examine most of the whales. However, aerial photographs show 305 bodies and 32 skeletons.

One of the 337 dead whales found so far. (Photo by Vreni Häussermann)

One of the 337 dead whales found so far. (Photo by Vreni Häussermann)

“It was an apocalyptic image for us. I’d never seen anything like it,” Vreni Haussermann, scientific director of the Huinay Foundation and one of the biologists who lead the discovery, told AFP.

Haussermann and her team have been investigating the beaching since April, after they came across an initial 37 whales by chance on an exploratory expedition. Having raised their own funding, the team began observation flights in June, which revealed a far greater number of bodies.

“There’s still so many areas we haven’t been able to get to, so it’s very likely that there are more dead whales,” said Haussermann,

It is believed, owing to the location and uniform size and shape of the bodies, that all the whales belong to the Sei species, part of the rorqual whale family. Sei whales, which are blue in colour and grow to an average length of 16m, are among the fastest swimming whales and can reach speeds of 50 kilometres per hour.

“[Rorqual whales] don’t normally travel in large groups,” Carolina Simon Gutstein, a palaeontologist at the University of Chile who has collaborated with Haussermann in the investigation, told AP yesterday.

The bodies were found near the Gulf of Penas, 1,650km south of Santiago. “Beachings are very common” in this area, said Simon Gutstein. However, “the whales probably died at sea – we don’t know where exactly – but they didn’t die from getting stranded,” she added.

Haussermann and Simon Gutstein’s team have been analysing the photographs and the reachable remains since June, but have declined to release their full findings until publishing them in a scientific journal later in the year. They hope to return to the scene in summer, when it will be easier to study the bodies.

Among the causes of death being considered is Red Tide, a phenomenon in which certain species of toxic algae begin to bloom and accumulate rapidly, resulting in a red or brown coloration of the surface water. The phenomenon is often responsible for manatee deaths.

The team have expressed hope that the episode will allow them to learn more about these kinds of whales, which normally live quite far from the coast, and potentially spur the creation of a nature sanctuary around the Gulf of Penas.

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Due to be Signed in February 2016


The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be signed in New Zealand on 4th February 2016, it was announced today, after leaders from the 12 participating countries met in Manila to discuss the timeline for the comprehensive free trade agreement.

TPP countries. In dark green: currently in negotiations; in light green: announced interest (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

TPP countries. In dark green: currently in negotiations; in light green: announced interest (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Leaders also agreed on a two-year period for each country’s parliament to approve the deal, meaning it will likely come into force in 2018.

The presidents of Chile, Peru and Mexico, who are in the Philippines for the 13th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (APEC), joined US president Barack Obama and eight other heads of state to finalise the deal after the conclusion of five year-long negotiations in October.

The TPP, which will cover 40% of the global economy, is set to create the largest economic block in history by reducing around 18,000 customs duties between the 12 countries and establishing common rules on issues like intellectual property, labour regulations and environmental standards.

Supporters of the deal say that the new block will act as a counterweight to China’s growing dominance in the global economy.

However, NGOs and politicians across the Pacific countries have raised concerns over the secrecy in which negotiations were conducted, the deal’s environmental implications, its impact on internet freedoms and healthcare costs, and powers given to transnational corporations.

President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, which recorded US$45.8bn in trade with the countries involved in 2014, may face problems in ratifying the TPP in a congress where many opposition politicians have expressed concerns. Earlier this year Senator Francisco Chahuán publicly demanded a review of the negotiations with greater “transparency”.

Bachelet responded to criticism of the deal on Monday, saying, “We understand that we have to strengthen democracies and human rights […] but we also need to improve social policies and the economy.”

“We have very good arguments with which to explain to people why the TPP is good for us. We’ll be defending it wherever [we need to],” she concluded.


The full text of the agreement was made public on 5th November. However, Chile is Better Without the TPP, a campaign group made up of 58 social and environmental organisations, continues to condemn the lack of public participation in the negotiations, extensive concessions to the US on trade issues, and the potential loss of national sovereignty.

“The late release of these texts confirms the fears sparked by pages leaked by Wikileaks and which organisations across the world have raised. This deal is not good for citizens, even less for countries like Chile, and it is the expression of what happens when governments make deals without social nor political participation,” the group said in a statement.

Some have highlighted the unequal opportunities of countries within the agreement. Out of the 12 countries involved Peru, Mexico and Chile come 12th, 11th and 9th respectively in the World Bank’s Logistics Performance Index, which measures the challenges and advantages affecting different countries’ ability to benefit from international trade.

The TPP includes: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, the US, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

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Chile: Bachelet Announces Giant New Marine Parks to Protect Ocean Life


The marine parks will protect large area's of Chile's territorial waters (Photo via Wikipedia).

The marine parks will protect large area’s of Chile’s territorial waters (Photo via Wikipedia).

The Chilean government has announced the creation of protected marine parks covering over one million square kilometres of its territorial waters.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet made the announcement at the inauguration of the ‘Our Ocean’ International Conference in Valparaiso, Chile.

In her speech earlier this week, Bachelet declared the formation of a 297,000 km2 Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park surrounding the islands of San Ambrosio and San Félix, as well as a network of marine parks in the Juan Fernández Archipelago comprising over 13,000 km2. In addition, she promised to extend the protected marine area surrounding Easter Island so that it covers over 720,000 km2.

Commercial fishing will be prohibited in marine parks in an effort to protect the rich and diverse ocean habitats in the region.

According to a marine biologist at National Geographic, Enric Sala, about 72% of the species in the waters around the Desventuradas Islands are endemic, meaning that they are found no where else in the world. This makes the region one of the most diverse and pristine ocean environments on Earth.

“We must think of optimising our resources,” said mayor of Easter Island’s Rapa Nui community, Pedro Edmunds Paoa. “Our resource is the sea and the future of Rapa Nui is the sea.”

Vice President of Oceana in Chile, Alex Muñoz, described that years of unregulated fishing practices drastically threatened these endemic species and harmed the natural ecosystem.

“For many years, Chile has been one of the most important fishing countries in the world,” Muñoz said. “Unfortunately, that led to depletion of our marine resources. With the creation of this marine park around Desventuradas, we’re becoming a leader in marine conservation.”

While these new marine parks are definitely a step in the right direction, countries around the world still have a long way to go to meet the UN’s stated goal of protecting 10% of the world’s oceans by 2020. This goal was set at a UN biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Japan in 2010 and was agreed upon by more than 190 countries.

“These dangers and threats [to the world’s oceans] transcend borders and demand effective international collective actions,” President Bachelet said in her speech at the conference. “It is essential that we act now for the future of all countries, particularly for small island states and coastal communities that are especially vulnerable and depend directly on the sea.”

The conference, which concluded yesterday, announced over 80 new initiatives on marine conservation and protection valued at more than US$2.1 billon.

In addition, the 56 countries in attendance made new commitments to protect more than 1.9 million square-kilometres of the ocean.

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Agreement Reached in Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations


Trade ministers from 12 countries —including three Latin America ones— have reached an agreement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, creating a new economic block which will include 40% of the world’s economy and the countries’ 800 million people.

TPP countries. In dark green: currently in negotiations; in light green: announced interest (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

TPP countries. In dark green: currently in negotiations; in light green: announced interest (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The TPP, which still has to be ratified by lawmakers in each country, will reduce trade barriers between the US, Japan, and nine other Pacific countries and affect prices of goods and services all over the world. Supporters estimate that it will increase global economic activity by US$200 billion per year.

Mexico, Peru, and Chile have signed up to the deal, hoping to increase exports and attract investment, particularly from Asian markets. The TPP is expected to form an integral part of the three countries’ economic strategy in future.

Mexican Economy Minister, Joaquín López-Doriga, hailed the TPP’s potential effects on his country’s automotive industry, saying that Mexico was among the most active in negotiations because it is one of the countries “with the greatest capacity for automotive production in the world.” Previous free trade partnerships, such as NAFTA, have been credited with recent booms in auto-related investment in the country and it has been estimated that the TPP could increase the size of its US$397 billion industry by 37% over the next five years.

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, said today that the deal would offer advantages for small and medium-sized businesses in his country thanks to a special chapter designed to allow them to “enter into global chains of value”. He also highlighted the potential increase in “non-traditional” exports such as agro-industry, fishing, manufacturing, and cotton and alpaca wool products.

The final agreement– which also included Australia, Brunei, Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam – was reached in Atlanta yesterday after five days of talks, but negotiations have been going on for the last five years.

A sticking point had been the issue of the length of the monopolies that biological drug companies should have over new patents. The US had pushed for up to 12 years, but many countries have expressed fears that such a period would significantly increase the cost of health-care by impeding the creation of generic medicines.

Chilean Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Muñoz expressed satisfaction at the agreement of a five-year limit, – the same as the existing rule under a bilateral trade agreement between the US and Chile. “This is a valuable deal for Chile, and one which protects our interests,” he said. “The TPP will be one of the defining trade agreements of the 21st century. We’ll be part of the largest and most modern economic scheme in the world.”

Concerns

Critics of the deal, however, say it does not go far enough to protect the rights of citizens, particularly in developing countries.

Protestors against the TPP in the US (photo courtesy of Public Citizen)

Protestors against the TPP in the US (photo courtesy of Public Citizen)

On the issue of pharmaceutical patents, a statement released by Doctors Without Borders said, “Although the text has improved over the initial demands, the TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries, which will be forced to change their laws to incorporate abusive intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical companies.”

Further criticism has stemmed from the secrecy in which the TPP – which also affects issues such as internet legislation, digital rights, and environmental protection measures – has been negotiated. The public has had no access to drafts of the bill – aside from a few leaked chapters – and even some of the countries involved have complained of being kept in the dark about the contents of the agreement. The full text of the agreement has yet to be released to the public, though a summary has been published.

Chilean activist group, Chile is Better Without the TPP (PCCMST) denounced the “absolute secrecy and lack of effective citizen participation” in the agreement, expressing their “profound rejection for the irresponsible actions of Michelle Bachelet’s government”.

One controversial point included in the deal is its investor-state dispute settlement provisions (ISDS), which enable companies to take legal action against governments whose decisions negatively affect their investments in a country. This has been a particular issue for countries with involvement in extractive industries, such as Peru.

Peruvian economist Felix Moreno told RT that, “the secrecy is a result of the deal’s content, which the public is not going to like.” He says the TPP is “an agreement with a lot of small print, which has been very intensely negotiated and in which various special interest groups and large companies have applied a lot of pressure to ensure certain advantages”.

The agreement will now be put before the parliaments of the 12 countries involved.

The absence of China from the TPP has lead many to label the deal a US challenge to China’s growing dominance in the Pacific region. China refused to join the new economic block due to restrictions the TPP would place on its financial sector.

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Latin American Leaders Call for Reform of UN Security Council


Leaders of several Latin American countries, including Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Cuba, called for reform of the United Nations Security Council yesterday, as well as a change in attitudes towards migration, as they addressed the UN General Assembly in New York.

Cuban President Raul Castro also highlighted his country’s relations with the US.

Cuban President Raúl Castro spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time (photo: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Cuban President Raúl Castro spoke at the UN General Assembly for the first time (photo: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

While diplomatic relations between the two countries were formally restored in July this year, Castro said they could not be entirely normalised until the lifting of the “economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the US” and the closure of Guantánamo Bay, calls that were reiterated by other Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

The UN General Assembly has voted in support of a resolution calling the US to end the embargo each year since 1982 and plans to draft a new resolution on the matter are on the agenda for a meeting next month.

In his first address to the UN since succeeding his brother Fidel in 2006, Castro also backed requests from other Latin American leaders for reform of the UN Security Council.

The security council is the UN’s most powerful body because it has a role in shaping international law and takes the lead on identifying and responding to international crises and acts of aggression. It has 15 members, with the US, the UK, France, China, and Russia all occupying permanent seats, while the remaining ten seats are filled by non-permanent members which serve two-year terms, without the veto power held by permanent members.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, said that Chile’s 2014 – 2015 term on the council has “[reaffirmed] our belief in the need to reform the Council by increasing the number of its permanent members and limiting the scope of veto powers, at least in cases of crimes against humanity.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet talks before the UN General Assembly (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet talks before the UN General Assembly (photo courtesy of Chilean government)

The President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes, echoed her calls for changes to the council’s structure and called for a more equitable representation of countries within it, saying, “If we want democracy to rule within our own republics, it is fair that we would also want it for the United Nations.”

Bachelet began her speech by referencing the migration crisis which is currently affecting Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. She insisted on the international community’s duty of “solidarity” in the treatment of “civilians who are fleeing desperately to save their lives and to create a better destiny for themselves,” adding that her government “has decided to take in refugees from the civil war in Syria” and will participate in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa from 2016.

Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, whose country recently declared migration to be a human right, was among the most vocal in criticising the migration policies of developed countries.

“For Ecuador’s government, there’s no such thing as an illegal human being,” he said, “and we think the UN should make a point of this idea. The migration policies of wealthy countries are truly shameful.”

Correa lamented that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for post-2015 do not include any mention of “the free movement of people”, highlighting the injustice of a system which encourages “the free movement of goods and money for maximum profit” while the movement of people seeking to earn a living is penalised.

He linked the current migration crisis to the failure to end global poverty, which “for the first time in history is not the result of a lack of resources but of perverse and restrictive systems”.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the UN (photo courtesy of Ecuadorian government)

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at the UN (photo courtesy of Ecuadorian government)

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, whose country is the primary source of migrants to the US, meanwhile highlighted the need to stop “stigmatising immigrants and blaming them for the problems of the countries they arrive in”, which he said aggravates the experience of “danger, rejection, discrimination, and abuse” suffered by migrants.

“All over the world, millions of migrants are in need of a collective and effective response [to migration issues],” he concluded, “a global response which should come from the UN.”

All the Latin American leaders who spoke yesterday also raised environmental concerns, ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year, with Bolivian president Evo Morales insisting that “the only good way to live” is “in harmony with Mother Earth”.

Chile’s Bachelet affirmed that “many of the challenges facing the world today cannot be solved in an isolated manner by each country”. The creation of sustainable societies, she said, “will only be possible if we can agree on a set of changes to make not only on a national level, but on a global one too.”

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Chile: Ten Dead As Result of Earthquake


The epicentre of the estimated 8.4 magnitude earthquake.

The epicentre of the 8.4 magnitude earthquake.

Chile’s National Emergency Office (Onemi) most recent report indicates that the 8.4 magnitude earthquake that shook Chile on Wednesday evening has claimed at least ten lives.

The country’s Interior Undersecretary and the Director of the Onemi met with experts this morning to assess the damage produced by the earthquake and successive aftershocks that have targeted the central area of Chile.

Chile’s Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (Shoa) has ruled out the possibility of a tsunami, and the one million people evacuated from their homes are now free to return.

Chilean president Michelle Bachelet held a press conference this morning announcing the establishment of a disaster area to provide emergency aid to those affected by the catastrophe. She also announced that the festivities planned for Chile’s Independence Day on 18th September were cancelled.

Many towns across the affected areas still do not have access to water and electricity. Damage has been reported mainly to roadside infrastructure, with few building collapses. The airport of Santiago was also damaged, but national airline LAN announced that normal operations resumed this morning.

Chile’s National Seismological Centre (CSN) has reported some 50 aftershocks thus far, felt across the Andean country through the night.

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Chile: Tsunami Alert After 8.4 Magnitude Earthquake


Chile’s National Emergency Office (Onemi) has issued a red alert tsunami warning and evacuated coastal areas after the country was rocked by an 8.4 magnitude earthquake.

The earthquake struck a few minutes before 8pm local time, with the epicentre just off the coast of Chile, around 50kms west of the town of Illapel. Local media is reporting at least one fatality, dozens of injuries, and damage to buildings across towns in the central region of the country.

The epicentre of the estimated 8.4 magnitude earthquake.

The epicentre of the estimated 8.4 magnitude earthquake.

The earthquake, which was followed by a series of moderate aftershocks, also hit the nearby city of Valparaíso and the capital Santiago. Minor tremors were felt as far away as Buenos Aires and Sao Paulo.

Residents of coastal areas were ordered to evacuate to designated safe zones after a tsunami alert was issued for the entire country. Coastal monitoring stations reported sea rises of 4.5m in Coquimbo and 1.8m in Valparaíso.

Several municipalities ordered schools to stay closed on Thursday.

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Chile: Congress Takes First Step to Decriminalise Abortion


Chile moved a step closer to decriminalising abortion last night after the Congressional Health Commission voted in favour of new legislation that would allow women to terminate a pregnancy in certain situations.

World abortion laws (Image via Center for Reproductive Rights)

World abortion laws (Image via Center for Reproductive Rights)

The bill under debate was presented by President Michelle Bachelet earlier this year. It proposes giving women the right to seek an abortion without fear of criminal charges in three concrete scenarios: when woman’s life is in danger, if the foetus is ‘unviable’ (suffers from deadly birth defects), or in cases of rape.

After a long debate, the Commission voted eight to five in ‘general’ favour of the new legislation. This means it will continue to be treated in Commission before a final vote on the bill (due on 8th September).

“There is an important month ahead and we are going to make the most of it to improve this bill,” said Commission president Juan Luis Castro, a doctor and legislator for the Partido Socialista (PS). “I have no fears that we won’t be able to persuade and argue in the best way in the debate that follows, so that we will hopefully secure the vote of all members [of the Commission].

However, Gustavo Hasbún of the opposition Unión Demócrata Independiente (UDI) lamented the result. “Today, Chile lost, the country and public opinion has been tricked, because this bill practically legalises abortion fully. The three scenarios that they talk about when abortion is permitted has no medical or legal substance.”

The Catholic Church has also campaigned against the new bill, including taking out full-page adverts in major newspapers in recent weeks, urging legislators to vote against it.

If the bill is approved, it will then pass to the floor of the lower house of Congress, where the government faces a tough debate that has divided opinion within it’s majority coalition.

Chile is one of only six countries in the world where abortion is currently banned in any circumstance. The others are El Salvador, Nicaragua, The Dominican Republic, Malta, and The Vatican.

Abortion was legal under certain circumstances for decades until the outright ban was introduced by dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1989. At present, women seeking an abortion under any circumstance can face up to five years in prison.

Introducing the bill in January, Bachelet stated that: “Facts have shown that completely banning abortion and making it illegal, has not stopped the practice.”

It is estimated that up to 150,000 illegal and unsafe abortions take place every year in Chile.

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Chile: Teachers Strike against Education Reform Bill


'Teachers and students united in the struggle' (photo courtesy of Colegio de Profesores)

‘Students and teachers united in the struggle’ (photo courtesy of Colegio de Profesores)

This morning, thousands of Chilean teachers began an indefinite strike in protest of the government’s proposed education reform law.

The bill, called ‘Carrera Docente’, introduces a new pay scale system for teachers, which would include periodical tests as a prerequisite for climbing the pay scale ladder. It also details new grounds for dismissal for teachers who do not meet the academic requirements, and an increase in “non-teaching” hours for activities such as meetings, planning, and marking.

“We dialogued for more than three months, and presented our proposals, but little of that was reflected in the bill,” objected union leader Jaime Gajardo.

Responding to the strike, Economy Minister, Nicolás Eyzaguirre, said he lamented the decision, arguing that there had been a genuine dialogue with the teachers, and that they had been aware of the details of the law project. “I would call for continued talking. We believe that Carrera Docente is a tremendous leap forward for teachers,” the minister assured.

Conversely, in a letter to President Michelle Bachelet, the union criticised the “informality with which the Ministry of Education handled the discussions”, and the consequent mistrust and discomfort it had caused among their representatives.

The teachers also accused the project of being based in a fundamental mistrust in educators and stripping the training institutions of their responsibility, saying that teacher training institutions “have made education a cheap degree to implement in order to achieve greater economic benefits.” For the educators, the certificates and the tests for the pay hikes shift the responsibility from the training institutions to the teachers themselves. In addition, the union stated that the project “sustains the market-based education model”.

In Chile, municipalities are in charge of the public schools. The Chilean Association of Municipalities (ACHM) expressed its discontent with the strike, and called for the ministry and the union to continue negotiations. ACHM communicated that even though the teachers have promised to make up for any missed classes, “there is always a loss of hours that affects the performance and continuity of our students.”

The teachers’ union similarly called for the Education Ministry to establish another round table of dialogue. In the meanwhile, there will be marches in Santiago today and on Wednesday 3rd June, when the teachers will be joined by a column of the students’ union, Confech, which has expressed its solidarity with the teachers. On Friday the teachers will hold a national assembly of their delegates to decide on the continuation of the strike and to draft another letter to the president.

Education is a salient political issue in Chile. The student movements have been mobilizing since 2011demanding that the government fulfils its promises of free university education and ending private profit in education. The protests often result in violent confrontations between the police and the demonstrators. Reforming the sector is one of the major promises for President Bachelet’s second term in office. Carrera Docente, which would be implemented in 2016, is the government’s attempt to deliver the reform.

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