Chile: wildcat strike paralyzes ports

A wildcat strike has shut down several Chilean ports for the past three weeks, with the fruit and mineral industries claiming $100 million in losses. The strike began Jan. 3 at the port of San Antonio, over retroactive pay for lunch breaks, but solidarity strikes quickly spread to Angamos, Iquique and other ports, coordinated by a "de facto" body, the Unión Portuaria de Chile, not recognized as an "official" union. Only two major ports are unaffected, Valparaiso and Coquimbo, with the Federation of Fruit Producers (Fedefruta) warning of "a really untenable situation for everyone working in the fruit sector." On Jan. 13, police special forces occupied the port of San Antonio, using tear-gas and water cannons in an attempt to break blockades and bring in "replacement workers." In a similar conflict that day in Antofagasta, the offices of Ultraport company were reportedly ransacked by strikers. Government officials met with strike leaders Jan. 22, but no agreement was reached. The following day, an industry-backed Comité Puertos Sin Paro (Strike-Free Port Committee) held a motorcade protest in Santiago. The Unión Portuaria has issued a call for international solidarity strikes. (Mundo Maritimo, Jan. 24; Port Strategy, The Packer, La Tercera, Chile, 24 Horas, Chile, Fedefruta, Jan. 23; SeaTrade Global, Jan. 22; La Tercera, AP, Jan. 18; EFE, Jan. 13)

  1. Chilean anarchists to speak in New York City

    Although this salient fact is being left out of most of the extremely scarce coverage of the Chilean port strike, a key demand is a reform of the Pinochet-era labor law that remains in effect, permitting extensive use of temporary workers and non-union subcontracted labor. The preasident of the Chile Confederation for Production and Commerce, Andrés Santa Cruz, has accused "anarchists" of being behind the strike—to which Melissa Sepulveda, president of the Chile Student Federation (FECh), herself an anarchist and militant of the Libertarian Students Front (FEL) and Libertarian Feminist Action (La Alzada), responded in a statement, online in English at Ideas & Action. (Biobio, El Mostrador, Jan. 11)

    Two Chilean anarchists, Gabriel and Pablo, are touring the US and will speak in New York City Jan. 25, on "Struggling to Win: Anarchists Building Popular Power in Chile." Gabriel is a militant of the FEL and a veteran of the student protests that have rocked Chile in recent years; Pablo is a founding member of Librería Proyección, a social center and bookstore in downtown Santiago. In their talk at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS), 155 Ave. C on Manhattan's Lower East Side, they will discuss the port strike and the current state of the movement. There will also be a slide show on anarchist spaces, murals and street art in Santiago, and the role of such projects in Chile's larger social struggle. The presentation will be followed by a reception.

    Saturday, Jan. 25, 6 PM
    Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space (MoRUS)
    155 Ave. C between 9th and 10th Streets
    Sliding scale donation requested

    Co-sponsored by MoRUS and the NY Anarchist Forum.