“I advise you to leave the country as soon as possible.” The warning from a friend from Santiago is clear. Chile has been in a state of emergency for a few days now. And I’m kind of in the middle of this drama, which takes place in the country that is considered the most stable in South America. Whether and how I can leave the country is currently questionable.
To say it in advance: I’m fine. But I am worried. Not for my life or my safety. But at least I don’t know when, if and how I can continue traveling. After violent riots and demonstrations in Santiago and many other parts of the country, Chile is in a state of emergency . In Santiago, Valparaíso, parts of Temucos, where I am right now, and other cities, the government has declared a state of emergency. At night, curfews were in place. In Santiago, protesters raged particularly badly, destroyed subway stations, sacked and burned supermarkets, several people died, and around 1,500 were arrested. This is reported by national and international media in unison.
I had planned to travel to Santiago today, to arrive in Valparaíso towards the end of the week and to take a bus towards the Atacama Desert at the beginning of next week. A desert tour should be the highlight of my trip through Chile, which I have been looking forward to for weeks. I have three contacts in Santiago. People I met on my trip and a journalist who was supposed to be my host during my stay in Santiago. All three have advised me to leave the country while it is still possible. At the moment it looks like this is already a challenge.
Santiago is the hub of the country. All domestic flights start here for a stopover. The bus station is the main point for connections between North and South. But the airport is nearly closed, according to the airport website almost all flights canceled, the staff can‘t come to the airport according to media reports, passengers are stuck there without food, it is said. And also the buses don’t drive. My host’s mother wanted to get on the bus from Puerto Montt in the south of the country to Santiago yesterday. Her bus had to turn back. An important bridge was closed for safety reasons. We suspect that this could be the case in several places. According to a media report, Turbus, one of the largest long distance carriers in Chile, has completely ceased operations to and from Santiago. What worries me: my friend, the journalist, believes that over time it could become even more difficult to leave Chile.
For me, the protest is very close. The remains of smaller burning barricades were just a block away from my host family’s apartment on the roadside yesterday. The night before (Saturday), we watched a small group of young demonstrators tearing out signs from their moorings and putting them in the middle of the street. Previously, we had to bypass the inner city area. At that time we didn’t know why. Yesterday evening, the state of emergency was proclaimed for a suburb of Temucos for safety reasons. The school where my host is working as a teacher then all classes for today. This morning my hosts received the news that another school in town had been damaged massively that night.
Nobody currently knows how the situation will develop over the next few days. For me it is now all about research. The only option at the moment is taking a bus across the border to Argentina. I don’t know yet whether these buses are in ation or not. Another alternative is to stay with my friends for a few days and see if there will be a flight to the north of the country by the end of the week, and I will travel through the desert to Bolivia as planned.
It is clear that I can‘t visit Santiago and Valparaíso. That makes me sad. I have heard a lot from other travelers about the magic and the very special atmosphere in the two cities, which are visually special because of their architecture and street art. It also saddens me because I can’t meet my host, the journalist, in person. He could have given me a completely new insight into the country. However, I‘m grateful that he remotely interprets the current situation for me. The fact that I can‘t travel to Santiago also means that I can’t get my camera fixed for now. That’s a shame, but in view of the current situation, the slightest evil.
For the moment, my contacts in Santiago and myself in Temuco are safe. I myself entered the crisis prevention list of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now it’s time to do research and wait.
The background to the demonstrations in Chile and assessments of the situation in my Chilean environment I summarized here.