Puerto Rico, Hong Kong, Ecuador, Haiti, Lebanon, Iraq and now Chile. All over the world, people are rising up against austerity policies and corruption, challenging the police forces sent to suppress them. Many of these mass movements share a fierce criticism of capitalism. In Santiago de Chile, more than a million people flooded the streets last weekend and massive protests continue.
There, the brutal Pinochet dictatorship that took place between 1973 and 1990, during which thousands of activists and progressive leaders were tortured, disappeared and assassinated, was followed by decades of neoliberal policies, with rampant privatizations, union harassment, stagnant wages and higher costs of education, health, transportation and other services.
Chile, one of the richest countries in South America, is also one of the most unequal. At least 20 people have been killed during recent protests there, further enraging and fueling the crowds.
These global protests are also happening at a time when the world is going through a turning point in its history, with only a decade of time for humanity to move from an economy supported by fossil fuels to one powered by renewable energy.
On Wednesday, the billionaire and embattled president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, abruptly announced that his government had decided to cancel the holding in Chile of two major international summits: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (known as APEC) in mid-November and the United Nations climate change summit, the 25th "Conference of the Parties", or COP25, in the first two weeks of December.
The designated president of COP 25, Chile's Minister of the Environment, Carolina Schmidt, declared: "Citizens have forcefully expressed their legitimate social demands that require all the attention and effort of the government."
Chile's cancellation of the COP could be a blow to global action against climate change. But climate activists should gather courage: this renewed spirit of rebellion around the world implies a rejection of the status quo and could herald grassroots mobilization to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate change from accelerating.
Not long after the cancellation of the COP in Chile, the Climate Action Network expressed in a statement: “Social injustice and the climate crisis have a common root. Climate justice and solidarity have to do fundamentally with the protection of human rights and a better quality of life for all ”.
The climate crisis affects us all; first, and most strongly, to the world's poor. The massive uprising in Puerto Rico that led to the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rosselló was the culmination of decades of frustration with Puerto Rico's colonial status and contemporary exploitation by Wall Street vulture funds. But the discontent was fueled by the shocking devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and María two years ago, which took place one after the other.
A few days after Rosselló's resignation, Manuel Natal, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, stated in an interview for Democracy Now!: “The austerity policies implemented not only by the Fiscal Oversight Board, but also by the The current Roselló government and the past García Padilla government have left the people of Puerto Rico in a vulnerable situation.
Social inequality has increased to levels that have never been seen here in Puerto Rico ”. Natal continued: “We need more democracy, not less democracy. We are on the brink of a political revolution here in Puerto Rico ”. Rosselló's overthrow marks the first time in US history that a governor was forced to resign because of popular protest.
Indigenous peoples are also leading the way, often on the front lines of the struggle, confronting the extractivist model with peaceful and disciplined resistance. In Colombia, hundreds of indigenous and peasant social leaders have been assassinated in recent years, simply for defending justice and protecting the environment.
The Paris climate agreement specifically notes the importance of climate justice and commits to work "in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty." One of the enduring conflicts that has hampered international climate negotiations has been the refusal of rich nations, primarily the United States, to accept the simple premise that "polluters must pay." The United States is the richest nation in human history, in part, because by using cheap and dirty energy it has left a trail of pollution on its way to the top: coal-fired power plants, diesel locomotives and now, extractive gas for the method of hydraulic fracturing, misnamed "clean burning".
The Green Climate Fund was supposed to raise billions of dollars to fund renewable energy projects in the poorest countries. Last week, the fund's donor conference fell short of its goal, primarily because the Trump administration failed to honor the United States' commitment to contribute $ 2 billion to the fund. Australia and Russia followed suit and refused to contribute.
A new study by Climate Central, a science and news organization, indicates that climate change-induced coastal flooding is likely to be much worse than anticipated, forcing 200 to 600 million people, rich and poor, to leave their homes later. in this century. Right now there are numerous wildfires sparked by climate change in California, where hundreds of thousands of people had to be evacuated from their homes and at least a million people remain without electricity.
Like the forest fires, popular uprisings against corrupt autocratic leaders, austerity policies and inequality are also spreading and intensifying. Peoples are also flooding the streets throughout the world, linking movements against inequality with the fight for a just and sustainable world, powered by renewable energy.
Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan
Spanish translation of the English text: Inés Coira.