• Catriona MacDonald

Scotland in solidarity with Chile

I was proud to continue Scotland's long history of solidarity with the people of Chile today, joining members of Edinburgh's Chilean community to protest against human rights abuses in their country.

Protests erupted in Chile earlier this month following the central government's decision to raise fares on public transport. But the protests quickly grew into a wider statement about inequality and the cost of living - as one protester in Edinburgh told me, "it's not about the thirty cents, it's about the last thirty years". The government has responded to these protests by declaring a state of emergency and deploying its military on the streets of Santiago, where they have clashed violently with protesters.

Since then, at least sixteen people have been killed, with hundreds more injured and further thousands detained.

At the rally on Princes Street, the crowd simmered with anger as a speaker described the human rights abuses which have been reported, including incidents of torture, sexual violence and unlawful detention. She finished by reading an excerpt from the Pablo Neruda poem 'The Dead in the Square', which commemorates the dead and wounded workers attacked by police at a mass meeting of the General Confederation of Chilean Workers in Santiago in 1946.

The protest continued with singing, dancing and music, while I took the opportunity to chat to members of our Chilean community in Edinburgh. Several people told me how important it is that countries around the world stand in solidarity with the people of Chile and condemn President Sebastián Piñera's bloody campaign of repression.

Scotland's history of solidarity with Chile was captured memorably in last year's documentary Nae Pasaran, directed by Felipe Bustos Sierra. The film tells the story of workers at a Rolls-Royce factory in East Kilbride who refused to work on Chilean Air Force plane engines in protest against the atrocities carried out by Pinochet in the 1970s. I met two of these workers last year to hear about their memories of that time and their discovery, decades later, of the incredible impact their boycott had.

It was a privilege to have the opportunity to continue that solidarity, and I was delighted to see our SNP candidate for Edinburgh West, Sarah Masson, also showing her support.

At a time when our own country seems shackled and blinkered by Brexit, today was a welcome reminder of both Scotland's role on the world stage and the importance of international solidarity.


Promoted by Andy Diack on behalf of Catriona MacDonald, both c/o Gordon Lamb House, 3 Jackson's Entry, Edinburgh EH8 8PJ