Friday, January 14, 2011

Chile Patagonia strike

The extinct megafauna Miladon carries the protest flag

Chileans in Patagonia are striking in Patagonia over increases in the price of natural gas. Apparently the subsidy is being reduced/eliminated and this will create hardship for people in a cold climate and a poor area.

I am in the city of Puerto Natales and hemmed in by roadblocks. There are two routes to Torres del Paine National Park with at least 3 roadblocks between Natales and the NP. I visited two of the roadblocks today and strikers are in good spirits but less exuberant than yesterday. There is no blockade at the jetty in town but no boats are arriving or leaving. The jetty 1km north has a roadblock

Many shops and homes display black flags of support, typically garbage bags. Many cars too.

The blockade started Tuesday midnight, really a little before, we arrived 11pm Tuesday night and strikers were letting traffic through every 15 minutes or so. Wednesday morning some shops and banks opened but by midday they were closed again. Many really still trading but you had to knock on the door to get in or go to the back door. A pharmacy was trading with the window protected by shut roller shutters and a very nervous security guard on the door. Wednesday afternoon they were nearly all shut but by Thursday open again.

Hikers are being allowed back from Torres Del Paine NP but have to walk the 17km between roadblocks. Food shortages are starting, the hotel is out of diet coke and orange juice. We have heard that conditions are harder in the national park. Apparently, Red Cross have set up a shelter in the NP.

I have been told that two died at a trafficblock at Puenta Arenas yesterday in a traffic accident and that the city has no bread.

A government representative has just held a public meeting for tourists. He urged calm and suggested that tourists talk calmly to the strikers explaining their hardships as a way to help resolve the strike.

The impression is that the number of roadblocks is being increased.



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