Dear friends of EPES,
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Chile last year, it struck a country already in a profound state of crisis. The brutal repression in response to social protests beginning in the fall of 2019 was the worst seen since the days of the military dictatorship. Instead of responding to the pandemic with humane measures to control it and mitigate its impact on the already disadvantaged, the government used the legitimate tools of public health for further repression—even raiding community kitchens!
Thus the pandemic, compounded by mismanagement, has exacerbated the huge socioeconomic disparities that already existed in Chile, hitting hardest those who have the least resources.This is dramatically apparent in the communities where EPES and affiliated groups of health promoters work. Angélica Arredondo’s summary of the situation, quoted in the Update, is chilling: Those who are dying are poor people like us.
Throughout, EPES staff have continued to work with communities to address immediate needs while advocating for systemic changes necessary to resolving them over the longer term.This Update highlights critically important work in the areas of food security, gender-based violence and migrant rights. I continue to be moved and inspired by the ability of EPES staff to adapt to changing conditions and maintain the relevance of their programming in the face of seemingly insuperable obstacles. All this is possible because of people like you, who have faithfully supported EPES over almost four decades.
This past weekend, Chileans went to the polls in an historic election to select representatives for a Constituent Assembly that will draft a new Constitution (to replace the one imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship in 1980). Fortunately, supporters of the Piñera government failed to win enough seats to veto any proposed draft, but history tells us that those who benefit from structural inequality will not readily give up their privileged positions.There may well be increased repression in an attempt to block true systemic change. In such conditions, EPES’ work is even more essential, and it depends on your help.
We thank you in advance for continuing to support and enable EPES’ work on behalf of health and human dignity in Chile.
Please continue to take care of yourselves and one another. In solidarity and peace,
Christina Mills MD FRCPC