How COVID-19 and social conflict responses relate
From the Chilean miracle to hunger protests
COVID-19 broke out in Chile in March 2020, in the midst of an intensive social conflict rooted in the deep-seated inequalities caused by the free-market reforms in the country implemented since the dictatorship era of Pinochet in the nineties. Underlying the protests and demonstrations there was a big discontent from several sectors of the population that barely received the benefits of the free-market economy that once put the country as a leader and example in the Latin American region. The government seemed to be unaware of the problems that most of the population was facing and, as this research showed, the measures implemented to stop the spread of the virus also demonstrated the scarce knowledge of the livelihood conditions of many. The government’s response to the pandemic was to implement dynamic quarantines, to declare a “state of emergency” and to set a curfew. The population started to claim that the pandemic was the perfect excuse for the government to implement authoritarian measures to diminish social conflict. As we researched, these measures showed the deep-rooted inequality in the country. While a part of the population could keep working and maintaining a certain level of life, many lost their jobs (mostly informal) and could not sustain their everyday life, starting a new type of demonstration: hunger protests. Chileans mobilized again but this time to cover the most vulnerable sectors immediate needs, like hunger, by organizing ollas communes (common pots). Through a qualitative research approach, our study used secondary data analysis (mainly press) mixed with semi-structured interviews. Five key informants from the private, social, and public sectors were consulted via the Zoom platform. After analyzing the data, we concluded the case of Chile shows how pre-existing conflict dynamics can be strongly intertwined with pandemic responses as earlier protests for greater equality paved the way for a climate facilitating ‘hunger protests’ during the pandemic. However, the path for collective action was also paved as in response to growing mistrust in the state, citizens had a strong social mobilization base to face needs like hunger.
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|ISS Working Papers - General Series|
|Organisation||International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)|
Alduenda Avila, A.I, & Ramos Vilches, C. (2021). How COVID-19 and social conflict responses relate (No. 681). ISS Working Papers - General Series. doi:1765/135532