On May 18, anti-lockdown protesters from the poor neighborhood in El Bosque, located in the Chilean capital Santiago, clashed with the police due to food shortages during the lockdown.
Dozens of Chilean protesters threw rocks at the police, blocked traffic, and set fire in the neighborhood, as seen in numerous videos posted online. Tear gas and water cannon were also used to break crows on the streets. The local media reported similar incidents in other parts of the city and show protesters banging pots at night in several neighborhoods.
Santiago, Chile's capital, went into a stick lockdown on May 15 after numerous coronavirus cases were recorded, but individual neighborhoods, including El Bosque where poverty is high, had been in lockdown for weeks. Chile's President Sebastian Piñera said on May 17 that millions of food baskets will be distributed to help struggling families.
The mayor of the district, Sadi Melo, told local radio that the neighborhood was facing a very difficult and complex situation because of a lack of work and hunger. The local officials said in a statement that they had distributed around 2,000 aid packages in the area but they warned the government that it was not enough.
President Piñera said that the government will prioritize the most vulnerable families and will start distributing millions of food baskets next week. Following the president's announcements, Santiago Mayor Felipe Guevara encouraged residents through a tweet to follow the lockdown rules and the stay at home orders for their own safety.
Guevara wrote that he understands the anguish of the people since thousands are now starving due to the lack of food and resources, but he did not address the controversy over the comments that he made on television about the protest.
Government aid not enough
The protest in Santiago is just one of the growing anti-lockdown protest in Latin America. In Colombia, people have been hanging red cloths outside their houses to indicate that they are hungry. In Brazil, people from Sao Paulo marched to the state governor's palace as they demanded more assistance during the lockdown. In El Salvador, people have been banging pots to protest the lockdown and a way to demand help from the local government.
The governments in Latin America are finding it challenging to support the large population of poor people who are in lockdown since they have few financial resources left and their social systems are weak. Chile also had a number of protests in 2019 after the government announced its plan to increase metro fares.
There were also protest over high costs of living, low wages, and inequality, but it had subsided as the coronavirus spreads. The president already unveils the stimulus measures set by the government to help ease the impact of the pandemic in their economy, but critics and numerous opposition groups say that his plans are not enough since no one knows when the pandemic will end.
Coronavirus in Chile
Chile has 49,579 recorded as of May 19, with 509 deaths and 21,507 recovered cases. It is still unclear when the lockdown in Santiago will be lifted. On May 18, numerous members of Chile's senate and two ministers went into isolation after one of their colleagues tested positive for the virus.