Action in Chile - International Women's Day

September 25, 2007

Growing protest rocked Chile's major cities on March 8, Interna- tional Women's Day. More than 1000 women and men turned this day of commemoration into a series of overtly anti-dictatorial demonstrations. The National Women's Coor- dinating Group, in conjunction with other above-ground resistance groups, solicited official authoriza- tion to call a large meeting for March 8. The Chilean Writers' Society also requested permission to pay public homage on that same day to internationally renowned Chilean literary writer and popular heroine Gabriela Mistral. Predictably, the Pinochet government denied permission to both. Undaunted, the organizers varied their tack, deciding to hold dozens of small neighborhood meetings simultaneously in San- tiago, the coastal city of Valparaiso and other urban centers where op- position activity has been growing. By decentralizing their demonstra- "tions, the protesters hoped to dif- fuse the military's repressive response. On March 8, several of the local meetings became packed with community residents, eventually causing a spillover into the street. The slogans reflected the demands of Chile's poor women and men: equality, freedom, jobs, food, release of all prisoners and clarification of the whereabouts of the thousands of missing persons. In Santiago and Valparaiso the police moved in on the demonstators, arresting 111 in the capital (44 women and 67 men) and 30 in the seaport town. Among those arrested were leaders of the outlawed National Trade Union Coordinating Body, a federation of 39update * update * update . update the major opposition trade unions. Also detained were members of the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared and Political Prisoners. All have been charged with violation of the Internal Security Law. This situation has been de- nounced by human rights activists in Chile. They report that many of those held were tortured, in a style reminiscent of 1974-75 when the ruthless DINA operated without restraints. The March 8 protest occurred just days after three armed ac- tions were successfully carried out by organized units of the under- ground resistance. A total of $15,000 was expropriated from the "Polla Gol" (Chile's Football Lottery). Following these actions, the Pinochet government in- creased its attacks against the MIR, a leading resistance organization, accusing it of having perpetrated these "crimes". The regime also intensified its manhunt against MIR Secretary General Andres Pascal Allende. Pascal Allende dealt a humiliating blow to the military in January 1979 when he successful- ly slipped back into Chile undetected, and then again in July when he narrowly escaped cap- ture in a major gun battle in the outskirts of Santiago. These two feats, now added to an already long list of similarly dramatic escapes and evasions, have ap- parently turned Pascal Allende into something of a legendary folk hero for Chile's popular masses. In their attempt to track him down, the military have launched an all out campaign to hunt Maria Isabel Ortega, wife of a missing political prisoner and former co-director of the Huehecito Day Care Center which takes in orphans and children of political prisoners. The military are accusing her of work- ing closely with Pascal Allende and of having led the attempted expropriation of an armored truck in Santiago on November 24, 1979. The "Salvador Allende" Comman- do claimed credit for the aborted action. Her whereabouts at this time are unknown. The search for the two has led to heightened attacks against the most militant activists in the resistance movement-the shan- tytown dwellers. Following the ar- mored truck action, hundreds of people were arrested in raids on various shantytowns. Upon their release, demonstrations were quickly called, protesting the escalating repression and de- manding the immediate restora- tion of democratic rights. Residents of Chile's shanty- towns-some of which are no more than camps of flimsy lean- tos -have been the most obvious victims of the Junta's economic policy. On March 14, the Minister of the Interior officially declared the squatter camp "Nuevo Amanecer" illegal, and served notice that it would be evacuated and dissolved. The 340 resident families responded publicly that they would resist the forced evacuation to the end. (This par- ticlar squatter settlement was called "Nueva Havana" before the coup, known to U.S. audiences through the Chilean film, Cam- pamento, as the focus of a MIR-led land seizure and successful efforts at community self-government. Sources in the resistance mov- ment report that all efforts are be- ing concentrated on countering this current wave of repression, and building forces for the ap- proaching May Day demonstra- tions, historically a day when Chile's working class makes a handsome show of force.

Tags: Chile, Women, protests, Pascal Allende

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