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Chile: Citizens respond to natural gas crisis in Magallanes

On Tuesday January 11th, the government of Chilean President Sebastian Piñera announced a 16.8% increase in natural gas prices in Magallanes, the southernmost region of Chile. Natural gas is a vital resource in Magallanes, [es] whose mean yearly temperature is 9ºC (48.2ºF) [es], and where natural gas is used in electric energy production [es].

The measure generated an immediate response. Protests [es], barricades [es] in the streets supporting the movement #noalalzadelgas [es] (Say NO to raising gas prices) and criticisms [es] were vented against the historic-tendency toward Chilean centralism [es].

Lorena Francisca in El Alma en la Pluma Virtual [es] explains the strong reaction of that region:

Por favor, compárenos permanentemente con una familia del resto de país, compare cuánto nos cuestan los alimentos en especial la fruta y la verdura, cuánto nos cuesta viajar, cuánto nos cuesta la vida en Magallanes y, después, súbale los precios a todo el resto del país por pagar tan poco por la comida, por comprar 1 caja de tomates con lo que nosotros compramos 1 kilo. Compare qué significa darles a nuestros hijos una educación ya que no contamos aquí con todas las universidades, qué significa buscar una mejor atención de salud, ya que no contamos con la cobertura necesaria.

Please, just compare us to the rest of the country, compare how much food costs here, especially fruits and vegetables, how much it costs to travel, how much it costs to live in Magallanes and, after that, raise the prices of the rest of the country because they are paying so little for food, because they can buy 1 crate of tomatoes with what we use to buy 1 kilo. Compare what it means to give our children an education because we can't count on the universities here, what it means to search for better healthcare because we can't count on adequate coverage.

In the middle of the protests a Citizen Assembly [es] formed in Magallanes [es] and rebelled against the high cost of the mandated prices of natural gas and decided to go out into the streets to reject the government measure.

Fernando Olmos G. (@FerOlmosG) announced on Twitter:

qé pasa q los medios no informan sobre la crisis del gas q se vive en #magallanes ? @tvn_gonzalo , @tvn_consuelo @mxperez @SoledadOnetto

What is happening that the news media doesn't report on the natural gas crisis happening in #magallanes? @tvn_gonzalo , @tvn_consuelo @mxperez @SoledadOnetto

Carola C. (@vemi) said:

Cabros, tienen que escuchar esta: No al alza del gas, Magallanes protesta http://bit.ly/fBjavL

Lads, you have to listen to this: Say no to raising gas prices, Magallanes protests http://bit.ly/fBjavL [es]

On January 10th the music group Inti-Illimani (@inti_illimani) denounced the repression being suffered by the area:

Gobierno no descarta reforzar contingente policial en Magallanes http://bit.ly/fTSKKs || [Ministro de Interior] Hinzpeter y su “pacificación” de Magallanes

The government doesn't rule out reinforcing the police contingent in Magallanes http://bit.ly/fTSKKs [es] || [Minister of the Interior] Hinzpeter and his “pacification” of Magallanes

Fernando Lecaros (@Yoshimatsu_san) explains the impact that the citizen protest had on tourism in the area:

Turistas aislados y aislados, se toman la calle en Magallanes y comienzan a protestar. (@mapardo live on http://moi.st/e5797 )

Tourists are cut off and isolated. The citizens have taken over the street in Magallanes and are beginning to protest. (@mapardo live on http://moi.st/e5797 )

The Twitter user @MiriMiriChan puts a tragic face on the situation, with the death of two young women during a day of protest [es]:

Por respeto a las dos chicas q fallecieron durante las protestas en #Magallanes, no podemos dejarnos vencer. GOBIERNO escucha a #Magallanes!

In regards to the two girls that passed away during the protests in #Magallanes, we cannot allow ourselves to give up. GOVERNMENT listen to #Magallanes!

Finally, on January 18th an agreement was reached between the Minister of Mining and Energy Laurence Golborne and the Citizen Assembly to reduce the increase in gas prices to 3%, matching Chilean inflation, and increasing the aid for families in need.

Time for Analysis

Alexis Meza in the newspaper El Ciudadano [es] analyzes the situation:

La reciente crisis del gas, que movilizó a la región de Magallanes, concitando una amplia y extendida simpatía ciudadana en todo el país, deja en evidencia una vez más la frágil relación entre el aparato del Estado (expresado en el gobierno central) y las regiones.

The recent natural gas crisis, which mobilized the region of Magallanes, arousing expanded and extended sympathies from citizens across the country, gives evidence once more the fragile relationship between the State apparatus (expressed in the central government) and the administrated regions.

Patricio Contreras in the news portal Medioamedio [es] relates the emergence of urban social movements, citizens and territories in Chile:

Hay que destacar el rol clave que tienen en el desarrollo de los movimientos de hoy las redes sociales como twitter, facebook y la web en general, que logran contrainformar o convocar llegando un cierto grupo de medios de comunicación, especialmente a los “alternativos”.

The key role that social networks have in the development of today's movements must be highlighted. Social networks, such as twitter, facebook and the web [es] in general, are achieving to counter mainstream reporting or organize and getting together through certain communication mediums, especially “alternative ones” [es].

Mauricio Zanotti on the website Guioteca [es] compares the citizen reaction in Magallanes with the past year's response to the thermoelectric energy project Barrancones:

Entre las redes sociales, si bien el conflicto en Magallanes no fue tan potente como Barrancones, también tuvo acontecimientos interesantes, como un sitio en Facebook que acumuló más de 1.400 seguidores en sietes días, mientras que en Twitter el biministro Laurence Golborne fue un Trend Topic el día que se logró el acuerdo y finalizaron las manifestaciones.

Among the social networks, while the conflict in Magallanes wasn't as potent as Barrancones, it also had points of interest, like a Facebook page [es] that accumulated more than 1,400 followers in seven days, and on Twitter minister Laurence Golborne was a Trend Topic the day the agreement was reached and the protests ended.

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