How COVID-19 and social conflict responses relate: rom the Chilean miracle to hunger protests

Ana Isabel Alduenda Avila, Camila Ramos Vilches

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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COVID-19 broke out in Chile in March 2020, in the midst of an intensive social
conflict rooted in the deep-seated inequalities caused by the free-market reforms
in the country implemented since the dictatorship era of Pinochet in the nineties.
Underlying the protests and demonstrations there was a big discontent from
several sectors of the population that barely received the benefits of the free-
market economy that once put the country as a leader and example in the Latin
American region.
The government seemed to be unaware of the problems that most of
the population was facing and, as this research showed, the measures
implemented to stop the spread of the virus also demonstrated the scarce
knowledge of the livelihood conditions of many. The government’s response to
the pandemic was to implement dynamic quarantines, to declare a “state of
emergency” and to set a curfew. The population started to claim that the
pandemic was the perfect excuse for the government to implement authoritarian
measures to diminish social conflict.
As we researched, these measures showed the deep-rooted inequality in
the country. While a part of the population could keep working and maintaining
a certain level of life, many lost their jobs (mostly informal) and could not sustain
their everyday life, starting a new type of demonstration: hunger protests.
Chileans mobilized again but this time to cover the most vulnerable sectors
immediate needs, like hunger, by organizing ollas communes (common pots).
Through a qualitative research approach, our study used secondary data
analysis (mainly press) mixed with semi-structured interviews. Five key
informants from the private, social, and public sectors were consulted via the
Zoom platform.
After analyzing the data, we concluded the case of Chile shows how pre-
existing conflict dynamics can be strongly intertwined with pandemic responses
as earlier protests for greater equality paved the way for a climate facilitating
‘hunger protests’ during the pandemic. However, the path for collective action
was also paved as in response to growing mistrust in the state, citizens had a
strong social mobilization base to face needs like hunger
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages20
Publication statusPublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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