Chile enters 26th day of protest with strike, huge marches

An anti-government demonstrator holds a Chilean flag as he braces himself in front of a police water cannon outside La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP)
Updated 13 November 2019

Chile enters 26th day of protest with strike, huge marches

  • The strike drew widespread participation across the country, generating a holiday atmosphere in many cities
  • Large demonstrations also occurred to the south, in Concepción, where a government building was evacuated after a fire broke out

SANTIAGO, Chile: Protests against social inequality continued for a 26th day with huge demonstrations across Chile and a national strike that brought much of the country to a standstill Tuesday, while the value of the national currency fell to a record low.

Thousands of people marched peacefully in Santiago, congregating in the central meeting place of Plaza Italia waving the flags of Chile and the Mapuche indigenous group, with whistles and music rising in the air. After nightfall, the demonstrators lighted up the gathering with cellphone screens and green laser light.

But groups of hooded protesters in the capital also fought with police, who responded with water cannons and tear gas. A church in the Lastarria tourist district was ransacked and set on fire Tuesday night, and there were reports of looting at restaurants and shops.

The strike drew widespread participation across the country, generating a holiday atmosphere in many cities. Classes were canceled and some government offices scaled back their services. Some shop and restaurants also were looted.

The coastal city of Valparaíso ground to a halt, with government offices and public and private transport shut down. Protesters threw rocks at some shops in the morning, prompting many to remain closed, while hooded agitators erected barricades and looted. People hurled rocks at the Hotel O’Higgins, an iconic building in Viña del Mar, and ransacked one of the main grocery stores.

Large demonstrations also occurred to the south, in Concepción, where a government building was evacuated after a fire broke out. In Antofagasta, in the north, barricades impeded traffic, while in Punta Arenas, in the Patagonia region, hundreds of people took to the streets to express their anger.

Silvia Silva, a demonstrator in Santiago, called the strike “historic” and one that “will mark a before and after in our country” as Chileans continue to push for a new constitution drawn up with the direct input of citizens.

“No more abuse. Today we are saying enough, in the most peaceful way possible, to politicians and to those who are in charge of drafting laws in our country,” said Luis Casas, who was at her side.

Karla Rubilar, the government spokeswoman, said, “A strike is not the road forward.”

Chile is one of the wealthiest countries in Latin America, but it is also one of the most unequal, with a swath of basic services privatized.

A student protest over rising subway fares Oct. 18 has grown into a broad movement demanding reforms to education, health care and pensions. It has been a mostly peaceful movement, though there have been violent clashes between demonstrators and police. Twenty people have been killed and the National Institute of Human Rights in Chile has documented more than 2,000 injuries.

The government of President Sebastián Piñera has responded with a package of social improvements, and on Sunday announced a plan to overhaul the constitution that was enacted during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. But Piñera’s proposals have not appeased protesters, who demand a bigger role in reformulating the country’s legal principles.

The demonstrations have had an economic cost, too. The National Chamber of Commerce Services and Tourism of Chile estimates up to 100,000 jobs could be lost.

On Tuesday, the Chilean currency continued its downward slide, hitting a record 800 pesos per US dollar. Prior to the demonstrations, it had hovered around 700 to 720 pesos. It closed Tuesday at 781 pesos.

Treasury Minister Ignacio Briones said the depreciation “is a sign of the instability that we are experiencing.”

Indonesia targets ‘virus’ of religious radicalization

Indonesia’s Vice President Ma’ruf Amin says the government is on a quest to stop the spread of radicalism. (AN photo by Yudhi Sukma Wijaya)
Updated 25 February 2020

Indonesia targets ‘virus’ of religious radicalization

  • Vice President Ma’ruf Amin shares concern over former Indonesian Daesh members who want to return home
  • There are 600 former jail inmates under observation of national counterterrorism agency BNPT

JAKARTA: The Indonesian government has decided not to repatriate hundreds of citizens who joined Daesh in a bid to counter the rise of radicalization in its society.

President Joko Widodo said on Feb. 12 that the government was prioritizing the security of its 260 million population by reducing their exposure to terrorist attacks from those who had fought for Daesh.
Indonesia has experienced a number of attacks by people linked to militant groups that support Daesh. Recent attacks include a suicide bombing at a police headquarters in November and an attack on the then-chief security minister, Wiranto — a retired general who like many Indonesians uses one name — who was stabbed in the abdomen last October by a man affiliated to a Daesh-supporting network.
Chief Security Minister Mohammad Mahfud MD said that there were 689 people in camps in Syria — most of them women and children — who said they come from Indonesia, based on data provided by the CIA, the the Red Cross and other agencies.
The government will consider on a case-by-case basis whether to repatriate children aged 10 or younger, and based on whether they have parents or are orphaned.
Mahfud said that the government was concerned that if foreign terrorist fighters were repatriated they could become a dangerous new “virus” for the country.
Indonesians who had been repatriated from Syria have to take part in a government-sponsored deradicalization program for a month.
In addition, the national counterterrorism agency BNPT has rolled out deradicalization programs for terror convicts incarcerated in more than 100 correctional facilities. It continues to monitor at least 600 former jail inmates who have served their terms and are undertaking empowerment programs to prevent them from rejoining fellow militants.
Vice President Ma’ruf Amin has been tasked with the responsibility of coordinating efforts to take on radicalization. His credentials as a senior Muslim cleric are expected to carry weight in countering the spread of hardline Islamic teachings.


260m - Total population of Indonesia.

689 - Number of people in Syrian camps who say they are from Indonesia.

600 - Number of inmates under observation of national counterterrorism agency BNPT.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, septuagenarian Amin, who is chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, although in an inactive capacity, acknowledged his background as a religious figure was the reason why President Widodo assigned him to the task.
“We want to instill a sense of religious moderation and develop a nationalist commitment,” he said.
He added that the government did not want former Daesh members who claimed to be Indonesians bringing “a plague” to the country, becoming “a new source of radicalism” if they were repatriated.
The government uses the term “radical terrorism” to avoid confusion with other types of radicalism.

Hundreds of Indonesians joined Daesh in Syria, to fight against President Bashar Assad. (Getty)

Amin said that prevention and law enforcement were required to combat terrorism. While Indonesia has gained international recognition for its counterterrorism efforts, there remains much to do to curb the spread of radical terrorism, he said.
“If radicalism turns into action, it could become terrorism, so we begin from their way of thinking and we realign their intolerant thoughts, which are the source of radicalism. We deradicalize those who have been exposed,” Amin said.
There are five provinces where the spread of radicalism and terrorism have been particularly being targeted: Aceh, Riau, Central Sulawesi, West Kalimantan and East Java.
Amin said that the government was on a quest to prevent the spread of religious radicalism in Indonesia.
“The cause of terrorism and radicalism could be triggered by religious teachings, the economic situation, injustice, therefore it takes a comprehensive approach from upstream to downstream,” Amin said.
A coordinated approach involves various government agencies and institutions, and begins with early childhood education through to college.
“We want to instill religious moderation, a sense of nationalism and patriotism and introduce Pancasila into early childhood education,” Amin said, referring to the country’s foundation principles.
According to the Global Threat Landscape report issued in January by Singapore’s International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), deradicalization programs targeting women and children are necessary given the growing number of women involved in terrorist activities. The programs need to be different to those provided for male militants.
The report found that family networks which include wives would continue to play a part in militant activities in Indonesia this year. Family units are likely to be involved in future attacks as some pro-Daesh families have indoctrinated their children with its ideology.
Previous attacks have seen women and children involved in attacks such as the suicide bombing in Surabaya targeting churches and a police headquarters in 2018.
Asked if the BNPT efforts have been enough to counter radicalization in Indonesia, Amin said that the program was on track, but in the future the government aimed to have a more focused target supported by cooperation with government agencies.
 “We expect the results would be much better than what has been achieved so far,” he said.