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  • Demonstrators take part in a protest against the pension system in Valparaiso, Chile.

    Demonstrators take part in a protest against the pension system in Valparaiso, Chile. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 March 2017

Organizers say it was the largest-ever protest against the private pension system in Chile.

Hundreds of thousands of people took the streets in cities across Chile Sunday to protest the private pension system known as AFP, in what the organizers have called the largest march for the cause in the history of the movement.

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The march, organized by workers' organizations and trade unions, kicked off at 11:00 a.m. local time in the capital city Santiago's in Plaza de las Armas, as well as several other cities.

According to organizers, 800,000 took part in the marches in Santiago and a further 2 million across the country.

"We hope today we will have a lot of people and show that the social movements are saying, 'We don't want anymore AFP,'" a protester with the Cabreados Movement told Chile's Bio Bio TV at the demonstration in Santiago. "(AFP) is already a failure, and our political actors need to know that the social movements won't stop."

Luis Messina, spokesperson for the CNT labor union, predicted that Sunday's demonstration would be a "historic" march. "Perhaps the largest in history," he said. The protest comes after several marches in the country demanded President Michelle Bachelet end the AFP private pension system which puts the average retirement pension below the minimum wage.

The contested system also forces workers to deposit a portion of their wages and an administrative fee into accounts managed by private hands. This system handles savings for about 10 million working Chileans.

Last year, the pension fund was modified to reflect changes in the country's mortality rates starting mid-2016. Workers who retire will now receive close to 2.1 percent less money for their retirement.

The pension system in Chile is a remnant from the era of the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, which violently ruled the country from the 1973 military coup against President Salvador Allende until 1990. Much of the era's policies, which introduced aggressive neoliberalism and sweeping privatization, are still in the Chilean Constitution.

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"We call on all the working families of Chile to go massively this Sunday, to make it clear that we don't want more AFP, private or state-run, and we will not tolerate cosmetic reforms that don't give a real solution to the low pensions or to the permanent scam that has targeted us Chilean workers due to AFP for more than 36 years," said the organizers ahead of the march.

Mauricio Mattus, the spokesman of the Movement of Independent Citizens No+AFP, which translates to "No More AFP," called on all Chileans to participate.

"This is a citizen movement and not a political one, he said. "For that reason, we also make a call not to attend with political allusions, this is a transversal movement in which everyone can join but is far from having a political tendency," he said.

In August 2016, 350,000 people protested in Santiago against the pension system that President Michelle Bachelet promised to reform. The government is expected to present such a plan in about a month.


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