In Chile, Latin America and the whole world: INSUMISIÓN


From Peace News Jun-Aug 2004

For the third time, War Resisters' International organised an international training and action for International Conscientious Objectors' Day. After the Balkans and Israel, the focus of this years' activities was Chile and Latin America - with the central activities taking place in Santiago de Chile. Andreas Speck, WRI's CO Campaigning Worker reports from Santiago.

International Conscientious Objectors' Day 2004 in Chile

15 May, 10:45am: a group of 4 Chilean activists approaches Alameda and the Altar de la Patria with the eternal flame of Chilean "nationahood". They position themselves "incognito" in the middle of Alameda, on the green in the middle of this dual carriageway, opposite La Moneda, the presidential palace. They communicate what they see to several small groups of activists from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Spain, the UK, Uruguay, and Venezuela, waiting at Universidad de Chile metro station.

10:50am: a second group of 3 persons from Chile, Paraguay, and the UK leaves the metro station, and approaches the corner of Alameda withZenteno street, at the Armed Forces Headquarters.

10:55am: Several groups leave the metro station, and walk calmly to the corner of Alameda and Zenteno street. Suddenly, the first group unfolds a banner just in front of the entrance to the Armed Forces Headquarters, reading "No recruits, no draft evaders - objectors, total resisters". A second group lay down in front of the banner, others quickly painted their silhouettes with white paint on the pavement.

A second banner reading "Against the submissive law -- objection, total resistance" was unfolded just a few metres left to the entrance. Here, others quickly wrote "No wars, no services - insumision" in big letters on the pavement.

Before the police, which was present in high numbers because of an expected Nazi demonstration on the same place, could interfere, all the painting was finished. All the anti-riot police, water canons, tear gas throwers stood there, but the police didn't know what to do. When they finally moved them in towards the action, it was too late. After about 15 minutes, we decided to leave, and marched with the banners and shouting slogans to the Plaza des Armas in the center of Santiago, where the action ended.

The action above was the result of an international seminar and nonviolence training of conscientious objectors from several Latin American countries, jointly organised by Ni Casco Ni Uniforme from Chile and War Resisters' International. During the seminar, CO activists from different countries reported on the situation. A Venezuelan CO highlighted the social militarisation under president Chavez, and the division in the country, with paramilitaries on both sides intimidating everyone who does not follow the prescribed line of thinking - either pro-Chavez or pro-rightwing opposition. Paraguayan COs reported on their success of now more than 115,000 declared conscientious objectors in the country, in spite of the lack of a CO law (or maybe because of this?). The Chileans explained their opposition to the draft military service law, which includes an unacceptable CO clause, which does not meet the demands of the COs.

The training focussed on nonviolent direct action, and included the planning of the joint action for 15 May. We discussed the process of planning an action, decided on the objectives for the action, and worked in groups on our ideas. Several problems had to be solved: the Nazi march (against homosexuals), announced for the same day, an unexpected pro-CO law action by reformist groups at the same place, and quite a lot of practicalities. When we finally simulated the action in a role play the day before, it didn't look at all as described above. Nothing worked, and the "action" ended in complete chaos, with everyone feeling completely lost, and the "police" being in charge on the scene. However - a good evaluation made it clear to everyone how important it is in an action to know one's role - and to stick to it. And the final outcome on May 15th showed the value of a proper preparation and training.

The action was a good example of coordinated action with groups from different countries. Most of the Latin American groups which participared are part of CLAOC, the Latin American Coordination for CO and antimilitarism, and some are also affiliated to War Resisters' International. At a meeting on 16/17 May, CLAOC discussed plans for the future, and also the co-operation between CLAOC and WRI.

The activities in Santiago showed that the Latin American CO movement is strong and lively, and has a clear antimilitarist perspective, which goes well beyond conscientious objection as an individual right. I am sure that we will hear more from CLAOC in the future. And I am sure that the Latin American militaries will need to learn that antimilitarism is a force in their countries which has to be taken into account...

Photos available for download in high-res format: Photo 1 (pictured at top of page) | Photo 2

Ni Casco Ni Uniforme, Roberto Espinoza 1839, Santiago de Chile, email,
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