Dear friends of EPES,
You are probably aware that, for the past several weeks, Chile has been experiencing brutal repression such as has not been seen since the years of Pinochet’s dictatorship.
It began with student protests of a 30-peso (4 cent) transit fare increase, but, as a widespread graffiti declares, it’s not the 30 pesos, it’s the 30 years! The protests and the disproportionately violent response of Chile’s militarized police, ignited unrest that had been simmering from years of Pinochet-imposed policies that persisted into the era of supposed democracy:
- privatized pension funds that make investors immensely rich while Chileans can’t afford to live on their monthly retirement checks;
- privatized health care and defunding of the public health sector, leading to unnecessary deaths and suffering;
- privatized education that led to the highest tuition fees in the world (and, for many, worthless degree-mill credentials);
- privatized water supply (considered a public good everywhere else in the world);
- a tax system that transfers money from the poor to the rich;
- systematic encroachment and repression of Mapuche indigenous communities that stand up for their rights and autonomy.
All these elements are integral to the neoliberal economic model that gives Chile the highest level of income inequality among OECD countries and one of the highest in the world. According to the UN, the richest 1% of Chileans hold 33% of the nation’s wealth.
Rather than respond substantively to the just demands of burgeoning social movements, the Piñera government doubled down with dictatorship-era repression, with a brutality that has stunned observers and human rights organizations around the world. After a fact-finding visit to Chile, this week Amnesty International concluded that police deliberately commit human rights violations and shoot to injure demonstrators to discourage the social movement. The president, who a month ago, said the government was at war—against its own people— refuses to take responsibility. But, to paraphrase Einstein, peace is not the absence of war; it’s the presence of justice.
I’m very much afraid that things are going to get worse before they get better, because the wealthy won’t easily give up their privilege, and the Chilean people, now awakened to the full scope of their oppression, will not go back to submission and misery. As another popular graffiti puts it, We’ve lost everything, even our fear.
EPES and AHA are deeply grateful for your support over the years, so indispensable to sustainability for almost four decades. We count on your continued generosity in your year-end giving. Now, more than ever, EPES desperately needs your help to keep standing with and providing essential tools to the Chilean people, protesting structural inequalities, calling out human rights violations, and demanding the right to health and a dignified life for all.
In solidarity and peace,
Christina Mills MD FRCPC
President, Action for Health in the Americas
P.S. Thank you in advance for making a donation to EPES TODAY! To make a tax-deductible contribution to EPES, donate online at www.actionforhealth.org or mail a check made out to “Action for Health in the Americas” to:
Action for Health in the Americas c/o Prince of Peace Lutheran Church
4 Northcrest Drive
Clifton Park, NY 12065-2744 USA