Chile: Aysén roadblocks renewed, negotiations at “point zero”

New confrontations broke out in Chile’s southern Aysén region on the morning of March 3 when police agents confronted about 100 protesters at barricades residents had set up in the small town of Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez. Like residents of other parts of the region, protesters in the town had resumed blocking traffic a few days earlier when the government of right-wing president Sebastián Piñera set new conditions for negotiations.

A broad coalition of labor and grassroots organizations started blocking roads in Aysén region on Feb. 12 to push 11 demands for alleviating the high cost of living in the isolated region with fuel and food subsidies and a regional wage scale. On Feb. 25 protest leaders agreed to let traffic pass through in order to start talks with the government, but they continued to maintain the roadblocks. Government officials refused to accept this and said they wouldn’t negotiate without a complete end to the roadblocks. “We’ve come back to point zero,” one of the protest leaders, Misael Ruiz, told the media, “but not because of the negotiating group, not because of the spokespeople, but only because of the government.”

In other news, the authorities reported on March 3 that four miners had died in a small copper mine in northern Chile, apparently from carbon monoxide inhalation. (La Jornada, Mexico, March 4, from AFP, Prensa Latina)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 4.

See our last post on Chile.