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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 28 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 13
LGBT group takes leading role in Chile protests
Section One
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LGBT group takes leading role in Chile protests

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

MOVILH, Movimiento de Integracion y Liberacion Homosexual, the leading LGBT rights organization in Chile, played a leading role in organizing a massive protest march in Santiago, the Chilean capital.

Called 'The March of Marches,' the March 17 demonstration demanded that newly-elected Chilean President Michelle Bachelet move forward on her campaign promise to replace Chile's current constitution - enacted under military dictator General Augusto Pinochet - with a document that protects the rights of all citizens.

'This is not a protest against Ms. Bachelet or for her, it's just an alert for the political class so they know people have demands,' said MOVILH spokesperson Oscar Rementeria.

'This was the first demonstration where all social causes, represented by more than 40 organizations, participated together in solidarity,' MOVILH noted on its website. 'The March, which helped to accelerate the advancement of various social demands , was replicated in other regions and abroad...

'[In] Valparaiso and Arica twenty other social organizations protested, just as happened in Paris with Chileans living in France,' MOVILH continued.

Organizers said that 'one of the most positive effects of the March was the public voice it gave to various social groups that emerged in the last four years, whose issues were little regarded by the authorities or the media.'

Some organizers estimated the crowd at 100,000 people in Santiago, although the police put the figure at 25,000.

'The march was festive, with a family-like atmosphere, there was no damage or incident,' said the mayor of the Santiago Metropolitan Region, Claudio Orrego.

At the end of the day, however, police clashed with some hooded protesters. MOVILH said the police used excessive force to quell what they called 'minor disorders.'

'As the March finished up, some hooded individuals rioted, and minor disorders broke out at the fringes of the closing ceremony, but police were unable to pull back and focus their actions. Instead, they chose to repress the masses with water cannons and excessive and unnecessary force,' the group said on its website.

Bachelet, who served a previous term as President of Chile in 2006-2010, was reelected in 2013 with more than 62% of the vote. Her campaign promised to increase spending on education, improve the national healthcare system, and reduce income disparity. Bachelet also promised to increase taxes to offer a free university education to all students.

Her signature issue, however, was her promise to reform political and economic structures dating from the 1973-1990 dictatorship of General Pinochet.

Ironically, Bachelet's opponent in the 2013 election was her childhood friend, Evelyn Matthei. Both were children of Chilean military officers, but Matthei's father had supported the Pinochet coup, while Bachelet's had remained loyal to the constitutionally elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, and died as a result of torture by Pinochet's security forces.

Allende's daughter Isabel, now President of the Chilean Senate, administered Bachelet's oath of office. Senator Isabel Allende is a second cousin of the writer by the same name.

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