PortandTerminal.com, November 15, 2019
SANTIAGO, CHILE – Chile has been gripped by protests against high living costs and inequality for weeks now. The protests have grown increasingly violent. At least 24 people have been killed, 2,000 have been injured and more than 5,000 have been arrested in the worst unrest to hit the country in decades.
Now in a show of solidarity with protestors, Chilean dockworkers across the country have joined in the national strike that has crippled the country and sent its currency trading sharply lower.
“Ports are paralysed from Arica to Punta Arenas,” said Eduardo Rojas, an Antofagasta dockworker union leader, speaking to Al Jazeera. “Other ports that are not part of the Chilean Dockworkers Union have also joined in.”
“This is the moment for change. The citizenry is tired of the political class, of not being heard or valued,”Pamela Pasache, Ministry of Education Workers’ Union
An alliance of dockworker, mining sector, construction, education, government employees and other union federations gave Chilean President Sebastian Pinera an ultimatum last week: either respond to demands in five days or deal with a nationwide work stoppage. Pinera did not respond.
Protests, barricades and road blockades began before dawn Tuesday in many parts of the country. Mass demonstrations, marches, and blockades were ongoing up and down the 4,270km (2,653 miles) length of Chile by the afternoon.
Where does it go from here?
The port strike affects Chile’s fruit export industry at the height of harvest season, according to agricultural media outlets. Chile is the world’s largest exporter of grapes, plums, apples, blueberries, nectarines and peaches.
Shipments that do make it out of Chile could still encounter difficulties at final destinations in Latin America and Europe. The International Dockworkers Council, in a show of support with Chilean dockworkers, has warned an international solidarity boycott is on the table.
Representing more than 125,000 dockworkers on five continents, the council expressed concern in a statement last week about police violence against Chilean protesters and dockworkers, in particular.
“Should the repression against the dockworker family intensify, we will initiate an international boycott of cargo from ships coming from the Republic of Chile”International Dockworkers Council
The Barcelona-based International Dockworkers Council has warned that its members may boycott cargoes arriving from Chile unless Chilean authorities cease “the repression of the port community.” The union has multiple affiliates in Chile, and it alleges that one local leader was “savagely beaten by police forces” and suffered a serious eye injury from a less-lethal round.
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