Chile: Struggle over gas price hikes in Magallanes region

Follow their example of struggle

After a wave of protest against a cut of subsidies for gas in Chile’s coldest region, Magallanes, in the south, the government has (19 January) agreed not to raise prices by 17% but by 3%. It was also agreed to increase subsidies for poorer families, media reports say.

While angry protestors in the last week blocked roads, an airport in Punta Arenas and a port in the region, more than 200 of them were arrested by the police. Two young demonstrators were killed by a truck breaking through a baricade.

The protests were organised by the "civic assembly of the region of Magallanes". It involved trade unions, activists, young people and small shop keepers, representing a wide range of society. In the course of events the businessmen broke away and the whole character of the assembly was more clearly marked by the influence of trade unionists and the youth.

We publish here a statement by Celso Calfullan, Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI in Chile), written before the announcement of this agreement.

None of the reasons given by the Pinera government for a hike in gas prices in the Magallanes region have anything to do with reality. The real reason for the government’s decision lies in it’s privatisation plans, as it seeks to pass the National Oil Company (Enap) into private hands. In order to do this, higher prices are necessary, in order to assure the spaculators and investors who would take the company over, of the massive profits which they could benefit from.

We must denounce these lies, and the rule of this bosses government, headed by the big boss himself, Piñera. This government’s arrogance was given good reflection in the first announcements by Minister of Energy, Ricardo Raineri, who said, when confronted with the Magallanes protests: “ We could have a party today, but it would prove expensive in the long run. We cannot be irresponsible”. This announement shows that the authorities understand nothing of the living conditions of the working people of this region. The government spoke of the “privileges”held by people in this region when announcing the gas price hikes. But behind these lies, the real reason for their decision remains their desire to privatise the industry on a state-wide basis.

The government keeps lying to impose its plans

The government keeps lying to complete its objectives. During the elections, Pinera promised that the price of gas would not rise during his mandate. This is but one example of how he and his Ministers can’t be trusted any further than they can be thrown.

It is clear that absolutely no trust can be had in the current government, or in the parties of the Concertacion “opposition” who now want to appear as the great defenders of the workers, after decades of government when they did nothing concrete to improve living standards in this region.

On 12 January, the indefinite paralysis of the Magallanes region began, the start of the “gas war”. The workers and poor of the region understand that they can only rely on their own power and mobilisation to win social justice, after two decades of “democracy” which has brought nothing in this regard to their region or the country, despite all the untruthful promises.

In the morning of the 12th, barricades were built on all the main roads of the region, with cars and lorries blocking the main routes.

The government’s dialogue of lies

The government wants to appear as engaging in dialogue, but the reality is that all the authorities are interested in is imposing their unjust plans while sowing the idea that they are open to listen to the people.

The courageous example of struggle of the Magallanes

It is not the first time that a courageous example of struggle has come from this region. Many still remember the “Puntarenazo” of the 1980s, which led to an open struggle against the dictatorship, led essentially by the same politicians who are in power now! Workers, the poor and young people should all follow the exmple of struggle from this strong, suffering region of Chile.

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January 2011