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Situation in Chile 15 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” with 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.