Recently, when a retired Chilean U.N. employee tried to enter ECLAC (United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, based in
Santiago de Chile) to claim her pension in a bank inside the compound, her car was stopped by a U.N. security officer. She was asked to complete formalities. To her taste, the process was taking too much time, and she began honking. The head of security approached her, trying to explain the procedure, which had recently toughened up, due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The security head happened to be an African-Brazilian.
She clearly did not like this fact, and she exploded:
That spicy nigger (‘el negro picante’) is the security head? I’m going to send him to the United States so that they could kill him there! I’m going to write to ‘El Mercurio’ newspaper! Who would think that this nigger could be a boss?
Her horrid outburst was reported, and it quickly reached the ECLAC head who happens to be a progressive Mexican scientist – Alicia Bárcena – who is a vocal admirer of AMLO, Hugo Chávez, Correa, and Lula. Indignant, she took immediate action, barring the former employee’s entry to the compound and reporting the incident to the U.N. headquarters in New York.
This story could be dismissed as an ugly anecdote, as something sick and unusual. Except, it is not unusual at all. Chile is a dreadfully racist place, although, as many countries where racism thrives, it does not openly admit that it is.
Gone are the internationalist ideals of Allende’s era, gone is solidarity with other Latin American nations. It appears that only the Chilean Communist Party has at least some sympathy with the plight of Venezuelan people. And no one here is demanding the return of the access to the sea to Bolivia: access which was literally stolen during the shameful “War of the Pacific,” during which Chile disgracefully joined forces with Great Britain against Bolivia and Peru.
“We are English of Latin America.” This is how Chileans like to view themselves.
And they openly despise those who are not as white as they are: Peruvians, Bolivians, Haitians.
Throughout the 20th Century, Chilean immigration policy was based on a determined effort to attract the whitest of whites, from Germans to Czechs, Croats, Swiss. Even the Italians were not good enough for them. A new wave of European migrants was mainly settling in the south, pushing indigenous, native Mapuche people to the margins, and into misery.
Chilean Left has very little to do with the indigenous struggle. It is a Western-style left, much closer to defunct “anarcho-syndicalism” in the United States, then to Cuban, Venezuelan, or Bolivian pan-Latin American struggle. The majority of Chilean ‘revolutionaries’ feel much more at home in Miami, Paris, or Rome than with their own oppressed people in such places as Puerto Saavedra or Temuco.
In Chile, race plays an extremely important role. It opens and closes doors. It determines who gets what jobs, and who ends up living in inescapable misery.
Under the cover of “fight against COVID-19”, Chilean extreme right-wing government of Sebastian Piñera unleashed a new stage of the war against Mapuche people, a war that even some foreign mass media outlets could not ignore, anymore.
According to Thomas Reuters Foundation News report from 17 June 2020:
The Mapuche, which means “Earth People” in the Mapudungun tongue, make up about 10% of Chile’s population of 19 million and mainly work as subsistence farmers in the Araucania region – one the poorest areas of the country.
Mapuche activists have gone on hunger strike, occupied and burned forestry and farming lands, and cut off highways to demand territories they say were stolen from them.
Mapuche leaders say that, like black Americans, they have lost a disproportionate number of their own young men to police violence.
One such case was Camilo Catrillanca, who was shot dead in 2018 during a police operation that sparked widespread fury among Chileans.
The 24-year-old became a symbol of police brutality, and his death triggered the resignation of the country’s police chief.
However, while there is now even the “Papuan Lives Matter” movement, in far-away Indonesia, until this very moment, there is nothing resembling like “Mapuche Lives Matter” movement in Chile.
The Reuters report continues:
Still, the struggles of indigenous people remain unknown to many, according to Karina Riquelme, a Chilean lawyer.
Every day they (the Mapuche) live in fear that one of their members could end up dead,” said Riquelme, who works with indigenous groups.
I don’t think people can imagine, but there are tanks, helicopters, and police installations in their communities.
Holding those responsible to account and getting justice is rare, said opposition lawmaker Emilia Nuyado, Chile’s first Mapuche congresswoman elected in 2018.
The plight of non-white migrants in Chile is horrific, particularly of those with non-white skin.
Haitians are taking the worst part.
Even Venezuelans, those who were leaving their country mainly because of the economic difficulties which have risen due to illegal U.S. sanctions against their country, have to face discrimination and often even open hostility.
When the Chilean neoliberal economy began collapsing as a result of the 2019 popular uprising, as well as mismanaged COVID-19 crisis, most of the Venezuelan migrants lost their jobs. They ended up literally on the street, facing insults, ridicule, even attacks. Hundreds gathered in front of their Embassy in Santiago, hoping to return home, but there were no flights. The temperature was dropping as winter had arrived. The Chilean state did nothing to help. In the end, it was the Communist mayor of Recoletta, who took decisive action and housed all Venezuelan people in need in his neighborhood.
The Chilean government began preparing what is termed as ‘voluntary repatriation’ of both Haitian and Venezuelan citizens, demanding that they sign an affidavit with a clause that they cannot re-enter the country for at least nine years. Thoroughly unlawful and unconstitutional move, but here nobody cares.
In Chile, racism has many diverse forms, and some of them are truly monstrous.
Right after the Pinochet dictatorship officially ended, I went to Chile, to write about, and to expose “Colonia Dignidad,” an evil German enclave, run by extreme right-wing (some of them Nazis) child molesters (listen to my interview here). This huge compound, in remote Maule Region, spreading towards the Andes and the border with Argentina, was, particularly during the dictatorship, notorious for torturing, raping, and disappearing people. Its name was changed in 1991 to Villa Baviera, but even after that, for years it continued to function as a state inside the state, equipped with barbed wire at its perimeter, as well as searchlights, German shepherds, two airstrips, power plant, and the arsenal of weapons stored in the underground tunnels.
After returning to Chile, several months ago, I discovered that all major Chilean supermarket chains are stuffed with the Villa Baviera products, from German bread to sausages of all kinds.
This pinnacle of racism, bigotry, sexual abuse (mainly pedophilia), and torture, the colony is now operating as some sort of “tourist resort.” This is clearly a spit in the face to its countless victims, many of them kidnapped and ‘adopted’ Mapuche children, and to the Chilean democracy, which was broken to shards on 11 September 1973, during the fascist, US-backed military coup. Democracy, which was never restored, until this very moment.
Even in the United States, one statue after another is getting desecrated, painted with graffiti, or simply destroyed. Crimes against humanity are being exposed. With each of the statues, respect to US racist past has been vanishing.
In Chile, racist, white pro-imperialist figures have always been admired and revered. During the last year’s uprising, however, several monuments were attacked, including those to the conqueror Pedro de Valdivia, in the cities of Concepcion, Valdivia, and Temuco.
History of the country has been closely tied to various brutal conquerors, butchers of the native population, and to the collaborators with the European and lately North American interests: Pedro de Valdivia, General Baquedano, and others.
In Santiago de Chile, a huge statue of General Baquedano was painted over with graffiti. It served as a gathering place for the anti-government demonstrations at the end of 2019.
However, under cover of the four months long COVID-19 lockdown, the government of Sebastian Piñera managed to stop most of the protests, and consequently repaint the Baquedano’s statue. At one point, the president himself stopped his motorcade and took his own selfie in front of the monument to the butcher of Bolivia and Peru.
In Chile, there is no love for the Chinese or other Asians. The country fell under the total influence of the U.S./European political and cultural propaganda.
I knew several Asian women who used to face intimidation and harassment in Santiago.
Here, to be white, to be of European stock, is worn like a coat of honor. The highest honor.
Twenty years ago, when I lived here for over two years, Chileans were obsessed with different cultures. People appeared to be thirsty for everything coming from Asia or the Middle East. Now, it is back to the mainstream Western offerings: from U.S. pop music to Hollywood junk. The number of art cinemas shrank dramatically. Santiago reduced itself to a provincial, culturally dull capital. Unless one is interested in the second-rate Western offering, there is very little of interest here now.
Little wonder. Under the neo-liberal model, Chile’s upper and upper-middle classes adopted the Western/white complex of superiority fully.
Obviously, individuals who spit at black people will not be seeking African art.
In a report published by Palabra Publica, some facts and analyses appear to be shocking:
The report ‘Manifestations of Racial Discrimination in Chile: A Study of Perception’s, published by the National Institute for Human rights (NIHR) in February of this year, indicates that 68.2% of surveyed individuals declare that they agree with measures to limit the entrance of migrants into Chile. In turn, a third of them consider themselves “whiter than other people from Latin American countries” and almost 25% in the Metropolitan Region see immigrants as “dirtier” than Chileans. Additionally, the National Institute for Human rights indicates in their report that “the fact that skin color and indigenous features are indicated as reasons for rejection denotes their use as indicators of social exclusion and, therefore, as an implicit expression of racism (…) the indicators of the responses show that over 30% of the participants do not clearly reject the idea of stigmatizing them.
Black lives do matter, increasingly, even among the many progressive groups of people in the United States. But not in Chile. Despite gross discrimination, assaults and even killing of the people with a different color of skin, (one of the most ‘famous’ cases was that of a 27-year-old Haitian immigrant, Joanne Florvil, who got, in 2017, arbitrarily detained, denied an interpreter and killed), there seems to be no organized, powerful movement in Chile, which would stand determinately against racism and continuous theft of what is left of the Mapuche lands, or for the return of access to the sea to Bolivia.
Now, during the draconical COVID-19 lockdown (Chilean neoliberal government absolutely failed in its ‘battle’ with the novel coronavirus — Chile presently having the highest number of infections in Latin America, per 1 million people), Haitian immigrants are abused more and more, openly and brutally. Bizarrely, many Chileans believe that Haitians are ‘dirty’ and that they are responsible for spreading the virus. Horrid conditions in which they have to live, as well as abuses they have to face, were recently depicted even by Al-Jazeera and otherwise staunch neo-liberal reporter Lucia Newman.
In a way, Chilean racism and racial divisions are an extreme version of what is happening in several countries of South America. Here, the European descendants became what is called ‘elites.’ They control political, cultural, and economic life, and they control land, despising other ethnic groups.
Politically, they are controlling not only the right-wing, but also in some cases (like Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay), a substantial part of the Left. Here, much of the Left now has nothing to do with the Latin American Left, which is governing in countries like Cuba and Venezuela. As described above, in Chile, it is a defunct pseudo-left similar to the Western anarcho-syndicalism, which is alien to the mentality of the native, non-Western cultures. It is all about ‘rights’ and individualism, and very little or none, about internationalism. In Chile, during the big uprising which took place at the end of 2019 — an uprising which I photographed, filmed and covered — there were almost no voices supporting Venezuela or denouncing US-backed coup in Bolivia. However, there were many demands for free abortion.
Chilean racism is deadly. Here, European migrants ruined great native cultures, both in the south and north. Alliance of Chile and the U.K. robbed Bolivia of its access to the sea and damaged Peru. Chile spied on Argentina, on behalf of the U.K., during the War of Malvinas. The country was the essential participant in Operation Condor, with Colonia Dignidad being one of the main torture centers on the continent. Until now, Santiago plays a crucial role in isolating and intimidating Venezuela and other left-wing countries in Latin America.
All this, because of desperate desire to be accepted, to be part of the Western club of predominately white nations.
“The English of Latin America,” Chile does not want to be a victim. It prefers to be a victimizer. And in many ways, it is. Domestically and internationally.
But the word is quickly changing, and Chile may find itself on the very wrong side of history. The Western regime, the Western empire, is rapidly collapsing. And the white color could and should, very soon, become just that and nothing more — a color.
While the great original cultures of Latin America will, no doubt, return to both prominence and former glory.
* Written for and first published by Orinoco Tribune in Venezuela
• Photos by Andre VltchekPrint