Update on Chile Protests 18 November 2019

From our vantage point of being based here in Chile, in Santiago and Patagonia, we can tell you that this past weekend was very quiet. There were no demonstrations or violent protests. The government announced that it will offer the people of Chile a referendum to vote on if they want a new constitution or not, with a view to a new constitution eventually being drawn up. All the political parties were in agreement, which was a milestone in Chilean politics.

I, personally, drove my car to “ground zero” as in the Plaza Italia in Santiago on Saturday night and found the area to be deserted. This has been the place where all the young people have previously been congregating and one of the places that showed thousands of people in the street “making demands”.

So, judging by the last couple of days it looks like the country can, and is, getting back to normal. Of course there may still be the odd, small incident, but these, if they occur, will be very isolated.

Our travel advice is to come on down to sunny Chile (it is summer time here remember) and enjoy the wonderful destinations such as (and remember that none of these places was affected at all by the recent protests):

Torres del Paine

San Pedro de Atacama

Easter Island

Chiloe

Pucon

Santiago

Valparaiso

The wine valleys


Situation in Chile 14 November 2019

From our vantage point here in Santiago we can pass to you the reality of what is happening in Chile with a view to informing you correctly about what is what.

Travel Advice

Santiago Airport is open and functioning 100% normally and has been during the period of unrest.

Santiago city: The down-town area (ie the centre) has been the hub of where demonstrations have been held. These demonstrations continue to be mainly peaceful with lots of people out in the street in the area called “Plaza Italia”. Also around the La Moneda Palace (the seat of the president). People gather in these two areas usually on a Friday afternoon and in to the evening. The police (Carabineros) “handle” these demonstrations by spraying water over and at the protesters as well as release cans of tear gas into the crowds. This causes the groups to scatter as well as then incentivize the “bad guys” to “get angry” with the police whereupon they start to throw rocks and anything else they can at the police as well as set up barricades in the street, which they set alight. All of this looks to the viewer like a “war zone”, but it is confined to these areas.

During the day time people walk the streets, go to work, get the metro and carry on “as normal”.
Night life has been affected with a number of restaurants closed or with few people dining out in the down-town area mainly.

We advise to not enter into the down-town area of Santiago late afternoon or at night.
Areas such as Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura are perfectly OK and hotels in these sectors are also OK. We have our Santiago office in Providencia and today I have been to two banks and can say the situation is perfectly OK in this area. Some banks have boarded up their windows as a precaution and there is graffiti on windows, but that is all.

OTHER MAIN TOURIST DESTINATIONS

Torres del Paine and Patagonia in general – perfectly OK, open for business, never been affected by the protests.

Easter Island – perfectly OK, open for business, never been affected by the protests.

San Pedro de Atacama – perfectly OK, open for business, never been affected by the protests.

Pucon (Lake Region) – perfectly OK, open for business, never been affected by the protests.

Chiloe Island – perfectly OK, open for business, never been affected by the protests.

Valparaiso – Although the areas of Concepción and Alegre are OK and the hotels there are also OK we advise to avoid Valpo for the time being only because it is likely that you will encounter a street demonstration and that will cause you delays in traffic and will stop you from walking around.
Wineries – perfectly OK, open for business, never been affected by the protests.

So, if you are coming to Chile and visiting ANY of the above carry on as planned.

OPINION

We are based here in Chile and have seen first hand the situation as well as the reporting in the international media. As we posted early on about the report by “The Guardian” – a U.K. online paper about there being “tanks on the streets of Santiago”, this was 100% false and the reporter who posted that piece should be ashamed of him or herself. Also, in the “New York Times” it has been reported that Chile is returning to the days of Pinochet with President Sebastian Piñera using a “heavy hand”, again, this is a 100% false story. Piñera, to the dismay of many has been “too soft”. The police (Carabineros) have been so overly reprimanded and criticised because of their use of firing rubber bullets at people who were out in a Curfew (during the first week, and no longer in force) or damaging property that they now, literally “do nothing” to stop people who ransack supermarkets and damage buildings. That is not being heavy handed “New York Times”.

REALITY

Four weeks ago the student population in Santiago “snapped” we rage when the Santiago metro fare was increased. Groups of students then damaged Metro stations and set them on fire in a very well organised plan. The students were then joined by the poorer people in Chilean society who have, for years, been struggling to “pay the bills” and just live in a normal way. This grew into a movement for real social change.

This movement has two components. The vast majority of people come out into the streets, late after noon on a Friday and into the evening are are peaceful, jovial, with good demeanour, often comprising families with children.

The other sector is the minority that are using the opportunity to damage buildings, road signs, anything they want to “destroy”, often setting them on fire. These are people, in some cases, who are influenced by behind the scenes political masters, drug barons, criminals and poor, uneducated people who are hell bent on causing anarchy where they can. It is the usual story of the “anti capitalist” movement.
Unfortunately the Chilean police force is undermanned and when there is a march they are positioned not too far away leaving gaping holes in other places where the “bad guys” do what they want.

The images of buildings on fire, car tires in the middle of the road on fire, youths throwing rocks at police and windows creates an impression that “everywhere” is a disaster and dangerous.
This perception is not true.

To put things into perspective Imagine, for example a riot in Brixton, London – that does not mean that life in Knightsbridge has changed. Or, for example, there is a riot in the Bronx in New York, will not mean that life Mid Town or Up Town is different. Likewise, if there was a riot in Brixton, London, it does not mean that there is a problem in the Lake District or in Scotland and if there was a riot in The Bronx it does not mean that The Grand Canyon is a no go area.

ALL of Chile’s main tourist destinations are a VERY LONG way away from Santiago and usually any other big city too, so come over and enjoy the summer here as well as these wonderful places. In fact, considering the reality that some people will have postponed their travel plans you may find less people at these destinations, which will make visiting them even nicer. In our case, thus far we have not had any clients who have cancelled and enquiries continue to come in each day.

Yes, some areas in some cities have endured, and will continue to suffer, from groups of “vandals” (as they are called here), but the rest of the country is functioning and open as usual. If you have a trip to Patagonia or any of the other main tourist destinations carry on with your plans – NOTHING has changed.

In the event that the situation does worsen or we feel there is a danger to our clients we WILL advise you here and also via email if you have booked something with us.


News Update (Demostrations in Chile):

06 November 2019

The situation continues to be one of “back to normal” during the day, but late afternoon and evening in down-town Santiago a large group of youths gather and generally walk around the street in an area called “Plaza Italia”.

The government has made radical announcements for new laws to change the social in-balance in the country.

Here is a brief summary of places that are perfectly okay and those that we suggest to avoid at this moment in time.

SANTIAGO AIRPORT – FULLY OPERATIONAL AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS. WAS NEVER AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS.

VALPARAISO – WE SUGGEST TO AVOID THIS CITY FOR THE TIME BEING.

SANTIAGO – CENTRE (DOWN-TOWN AREA) BEST TO AVOID.

SANTIAGO, PROVIDENCIA – OK

SANTIAGO, LAS CONDES – OK

SANTIAGO, VITACURA – OK

TORRES DEL PAINE AND PATAGONIA – FULLY OPERATIONAL AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS, WAS NEVER AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS.

SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA – FULLY OPERATIONAL AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS, WAS NEVER AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS.

EASTER ISLAND – FULLY OPERATIONAL AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS, WAS NEVER AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS.

PUCON AND THE LAKE REGION – FULLY OPERATIONAL AND OPEN FOR BUSINESS, WAS NEVER AFFECTED BY ANY OF THE DEMONSTRATIONS.


04 November 2019

During today, Monday, in the afternoon and into evening there were mixed groups of young people out in public areas in central Santiago. These groups appear to be a mix of peaceful protesters and then smaller, unruly “anarchic” groups of mainly young men hell bent on fighting with the police. Very much the same genre as the “anti capitalist” groups who violently attack the authorities in Western capitals every now and then.

Unfortunately because the police in Chile are “not allowed” (Human Rights will report them) to use force to control these mobs, the youths do what they want, but, as we say, these activities are limited to central Santiago and only a couple of areas.

During the day the city is functioning normally with people going about their business, driving to work and so on.

The area West of down-town such as Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura are not affected at all by these demonstrations. And, as we have been saying for some time as well as the official branch of the government, the main tourist destinations are not affected at all and they are also a very long way away from Santiago.

Anyone coming to Chile to see the fantastic Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Atacama and the Lake Region will find these places perfectly operational and far removed from the issues in central Santiago.

If you have any questions about the above please feel free to email us. We are based in Santiago and Patagonia.


01 November 2019

The latest on the recent demonstrations in Santiago and Chile is that everything has calmed down. There may well be isolated incidents of small groups that still try to damage property in places like central Santiago at night, but these are now isolated and few. Hotels in the areas of Santiago such as Providencia, Las Condes and Vitacura are operating in the normal way.

Transport and everyday life is back to its normal routine, albeit some metro stations are closed because they need to be repaired.

Throughout the past two weeks ALL of Chile’s tourist destinations have been perfectly safe and NOT the slightest bit affected by what has happened in Santiago centre and some other cities. Santiago airport has also NOT been affected at all.

At this moment Santiago airport is operating perfectly normally and places such as Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama, Pucon (lake region), Easter Island and Patagonia in general are all operating normally and open for business. It is important to remember that Chile is a very large country and the tourist destinations are a long, long way from Santiago.

Please plan your trip in confidence and come and enjoy these wonderful places.

CORRECT REPORTING: We would like to take this opportunity to correct some of the erroneous and exaggerated reporting in some of the media outside of Chile. Namely that there has NEVER been any tanks on the streets of Santiago over the past two weeks. This was total “fake news” reporting, which appeared in the UK’s “The Guardian” online newspaper. Shame on you Guardian.

Also, totally over stated has been reports about “brutality” by the armed forces. The people who were breaking into private property, mainly supermarkets, and in many cases setting them alight obviously had to be stopped by the authorities. However, in such situation where the culprit is determined to get away some force may be required to ensure that he or she does not get away. Likewise, in situations where there were militant people clearly being violent towards the police and damaging public and private property the authorities obviously had to try to quell the violence and they used water cannon, tear gas and in some cases hit the guilty party with a truncheon. This method is used by police the World over in situations of crowd disorder. From a locally-based vantage point we can say that some of the reporting has been shamefully wrong and, unfortunately, goes to show how some reporters use a personal political bias to slant their reporting in a particular way to flame the fans of their own political belief. The consequence of such actions is dangerous and can have a devastating affect on peoples lives. It is true that people were hit by rubber bullets and round, plastic pellets, but these individuals were in groups of people damaging private and public property and / or out during a curfew. Yes, some people were “innocent”, but they should not have put themselves in a situation where violent people are present and also not been out in a curfew situation.

To illustrate the point even more, after the large Earthquake in 2010, the BBC showed a picture of a collapsed road bridge in Santiago and accompanied this with a voice over implying that all of Chile was damaged and at a standstill. The reality was that at the same time this report was aired, Santiago was operating normally, the metro was running, buses were running and the streets were full of people walking around in the normal way.

The point being, do not believe everything you read in the press and see in the media.


26 October 2019

Last evening there was a huge, peaceful protest of middle class families with children in the streets of Santiago. Official figures say there were over 1.2m people. The atmosphere was friendly, jovial and carnival like. The same scene played out in many other cities in Chile. No violent protest at all.

This morning, in Santiago, groups of volunteers were out cleaning up graffiti and rubbish from the streets.

The president of Chile, Sebastian Piñera has announced a total change to his cabinet and said that he has “heard the people” and that Chile will change. He also announced that the night-time curfew will be lifted from Sunday 27 October at midnight – other city curfews have already been lifted.

It is our view that the situation has calmed right down and that the country will be returning to normality in the next few days.

As we have consistently said, the main tourist destinations such as Torres del Paine, Patagonia in general, Easter Island and San Pedro de Atacama are NOT at all affected by ANY of last weeks civil unrest. These destinations are the same today as they were last week as they were the week before last ie fantastic!

Santiago airport is open and functioning normally. Hotels in Santiago are operating normally and open for business.


24 October 2019

Update on the Civil Unrest Situation in Chile

The “people’s uprising” against the high cost of living that began last Friday 18 October and reverberated throughout the country has evolved into, mainly, peaceful demonstrations that take place in the evening. These gatherings have taken on a “carnival” atmosphere and attended even by families.

However, there has been looting and vandalism in some sectors of Santiago and other cities, mainly in areas of low-income groups. Because of this there is a night-time curfew in place.

Our opinion, from a locally-based-in-Santiago point of view is that things are calming down and life is returning to normal during the day. The Santiago metro is getting back to normal, children are going back to schools, buses are running and so on.

However, with the weekend approaching there could well be a “spike” back to unrest as students and people who are not at work take advantage to “be a problem” for the authorities.

We feel that over the coming week that life will return to how it was prior to the demonstrations.

We wish to stress that tourist destinations such as Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama, Pucon and Easter Island are a very long way from Santiago and other cities and in these destinations “life is normal”. To illustrate what we mean if you can imagine a public disturbance in, say, New York in the USA and you had a holiday booked to see the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon would not be the slightest bit affected by the unrest in New York. Going to Torres del Paine and the other tourist destinations is like that – a very long way away from any unrest.


Santiago airport is open and functioning.

Situation in Santiago

October 21st, 2019

Central Santiago and some other cities in Chile are experiencing violent demonstrations against recent price hikes in the Santiago Metro system. Although the civil unrest was sparked by the price rise of metro tickets these actions involve a frustrated lower-income group of Chilean society that has been building up over a number of years.

If you are due to arrive to Santiago in the next few days it would be advisable to be careful when venturing out and if possible avoid the central part of Santiago altogether.

The main tourist destinations outside of Santiago such as San Pedro de Atacama, Easter Island, Pucon and Patagonia (Torres del Paine) are not affected and perfectly alright.

We will up date you, but it is hoped that the situation will die down during the coming week.

As we say, main tourist spots are perfectly OK and you have no need to change any travel plans to such places.