UK’s Chile 40 Network Celebrates Progress and International Relationships

“If we explore the recent history of Chile we are better able to put the continuing student protests that are challenging Chile’s neoliberal consensus into some kind of context.”-Pablo Navarrete, founder, Alborada Films
Chile 40 Logo, which includes a portrait of Salvdor Allende and a photo of the 1973 coup.

Chile 40 Logo, which includes a portrait of Salvdor Allende and a photo of the 1973 coup.

The Chile 40 Network is a UK-wide effort to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Chile’s own 11 September in 1973 and the resistance of the Chilean people against neoliberalism ever since. That year, democratically elected socialist leader Salvador Allende was overthrown in coup d’état by Augusto Pinochet. This began a 17-year long dictatorship by Pinochet that left the country facing terrible economic inequality. Many of the country’s policies changed under Pinochet’s regime, and two of the areas that suffered were education, and the job market. A wide array of forces including trade unionists, students and shanty town dwellers and activists from left wing parties became key in organising massive street protests during the 80s that led to a referendum that ousted Pinochet and led to a return to democracy in 1990. The Chile 40 network is striving to commemorate their struggle through their educational events. Maria Vasquez-Aguilar, chair of Chile 40 said, “It is important for people, young and old, to be aware of the role of trade unions in fighting injustices abroad. Often, ordinary working people are forgotten by history. It is only by remembering and celebrating their achievements that we can work together for a better tomorrow – both at home and across the world.” Why does this matter in England? During Pinochet’s brutal regime, thousands of Chileans were forced to flee their home country. Over 3,000 of them came to the UK to seek refuge, and contributed to the wide mix of cultures in England today. A goal of Chile 40, aside from celebrating Chile’s progress, is that the trade unions will influence this country. Velazquez also said, “Given the decline in union membership, particularly amongst the young, and the current fight against the government’s austerity measures, we need to highlight the crucial role trade unions play. Chile was the blueprint for neo-liberalism, imposed by crushing all dissent, the legacy of which continues today. The current fight in the UK, which began under Thatcher, has clear parallels. The struggle continues.” Roberto Navarrete was among the Chileans who came to the UK in search of refuge. He is the director of a forthcoming documentary that focuses on the current Chilean student protests, against the country’s privatised education system. Chilean students have been involved in widespread protests that started in 2011 and have continued until now, demanding, among other changes, government funding for education, which for years has been largely privatized. Pablo Navarrete, Roberto’s UK born son, is the documentary’s producer and the founder of Alborada. He said, “I hope the film manages to convey both the dynamic and creative nature of Chile’s student protest movement but also some of the really eloquent and differing points of view being put forward by Chile’s student leaders and ordinary students. And at time when in Britain we are seeing higher education being increasingly closed off to the less well off young people, the film might also serve as an inspiration to the UK’s student movement in their struggle to challenge the privatization of education here.” Maria Vasquez-Aguilar and Roberto Navarrete will speak before the 25 July Nano Stern concert at Rich Mix London, a Movimientos event. Indeed Stern currently focuses his music on being an inspirational new voice of a generation in Chile. For more information on this event, visit the Movimientos website. For more information on Chile 40′s upcoming events, visit the Chile 40 website. For more information on Alborada films visit their website. By: Jamie Ordonez    

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