Chile: popular organizations respond to disaster

Some 12 Chilean social and grassroots organizations have formed a solidarity network in response to what they consider the authorities’ failure to act quickly and appropriately when a 8.8 magnitude earthquake devastated much of central and southern Chile on Feb. 27. The network will work for Chileans to “reconstitute ourselves as an organized people to confront the present tragedy in an effective and dignified manner,” the groups said in an undated statement posted on the website of VĆ­a Campesina, the international peasant federation, on March 10.

The statement criticized the army for its failure to provide accurate information to the government that could have saved “hundreds of lives.” It also criticized the incoming government of right-wing billionaire SebastiĆ”n PiƱera, whose term as president began on March 11. The right tried “to take political advantage of the country’s misfortune,” the groups said, while the other political parties failed to react. (Presumably this includes the Socialist Party of outgoing president Michelle Bachelet). More generally, the statement called the “slow, disorganized and individualistic way” in which aid was delivered a “direct consequence of forms of centralized, authoritarian organization” and of social practices “based on repression of organizations and political debate.” The damage to housing, schools, bridges, hospitals and highways was the “product of a business sector that spent decades making profits, acting in an irresponsible and criminal manner.”

The groups said they would promote “real and effective social participation” in decisions about reconstruction and aid distribution so that the process “doesn’t become a big business for the big companies” or a way for politicians to create divisions in different sectors. The military could have a “vital role in support for logistics and infrastructure,” they said, but without “the repressive role it played in the past.”

In addition to the Chilean branch of VĆ­a Campesina, the organizations in the network include the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI), the Ranquil Confederation, the World March of Women (Chile branch) and the Center of National Studies for Alternative Development (CENDA). (“Chile: Organizando Red Solidariaā€”Pueblo y OrganizaciĆ³n” declaration, March 10; Adital, Brazil, March 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 16

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