Chile limits the ways to exercise the right to demonstrate

Barricadas en las cercanías de la Torre Entel

The Piñera government achieved one of its goals after the social explosion in Chile: the legislature has just approved one of the flagship laws of the so-called “security agenda”. This will establish new criminal sanctions for looting, barricades on the public roads or highways and “who dances, passes” (a friendly protest, where the person who wants to pass through the place of protest has to dance to do so).

The last two have been the focus of apprehensions from the country’s civil organizations and international organizations, due to their prohibitive and censorial nature. Another way of wanting to regulate the right to demonstrate, which both the government and the opposition have agreed to approve.

The most powerful criticism came from the spokesman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who expressed his reservations about some of the legislation: “The right to peaceful assembly should not be regulated by a regime of authorisation (…) the mere temporary disruption or interruption of the movement of vehicles or pedestrians does not amount to an act of violence”.

Distance from citizens

The approval of this legislation is being felt as one more thrust from the political elite to the citizenry. Against the feeling of the population that has protested -with barricades and ‘who dances passes’- all over the country since last October. And although the holiday season has led to a decrease in the intensity of the demonstrations, every Friday the main squares of the country continue to fill.

A few weeks ago, the CEP survey (one of Chile’s most respected international think tanks, although financed mostly by the country’s big companies) showed that government approval fell to 6%, a dramatic drop from the previous measurement (last June) where it marked a 25% approval rating. At the same time, disapproval reached 82% regardless of its political position. The survey also showed that Congress has only 3% citizen confidence.

Today, it’s those same people, with a 6% and 3% approval rating, who are legislating. People who said they didn’t see this outburst coming are digging in to fight “a powerful and implacable enemy“. Apparently it would be the Chileans.

  • Accused of: “He who dances passes”
    Penalty: Minor imprisonment in its minimum degree. 61 to 541 days.

    “Anyone who, without being authorized, completely interrupts the free movement of persons or vehicles on the public highway, by means of violence or intimidation of persons.

  • Accused of: Barricades
    Penalty: Minor imprisonment in its minimum degree. 61 to 541 days.

    “The installation of obstacles erected on the same (public thoroughfare) with various objects”.

  • Accused of: Interposing vehicles
    Penalty: Minor imprisonment in its minimum degree. 61 to 541 days.

    “Those who, without an accident or mechanical damage, interpose their vehicles on the road, in such a way as to make the circulation of others on the road impossible”.

If you are interested in knowing more about Chile, I will be writing about the demonstrations and the internal conflicts that are taking place in the new section ‘That experiment called Chile‘.