SANTIAGO – Relatively few people turned out on Sunday for marches called in several Chilean cities by social organizations lobbying for an end to the private pension system in the country, especially in Santiago, where 1,500 people congregated.
The marchers in the capital set out from the Plaza Italia, the traditional meeting place for Chileans, because the latest pension adjustment effort by President Michelle Bachelet preliminarily does not meet their demands and they are insisting on real reform to the retirement system to guarantee themselves sufficient pensions to life a dignified retirement.
“The fact that the government has kept the gigantic savings of workers’ property, which unfortunately they cannot have access to, at the service of the big economic groups is concrete verification that the state institutions cannot resolve the problem of Chileans’ pensions,” said Luis Mesina, the spokesman for the No+AFP movement.
At the demonstration, one man went so far as to remove his clothes to protest naked, telling reporters that he had decided to put his “personal stamp” on the demonstration “to call attention” to the issue and adding that his effort was a “playful” way to protest, to “go a little outside the norm.”
In earlier demonstrations, hundreds of thousands of people turned out on the streets of Santiago and other Chilean cities to call for an end to the private pension system, which was imposed in 1981 by the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who governed from 1973-1990.
Under the Chilean system, workers make yearly contributions into the private pension funds but pension payments from the funds are still relatively low, mainly because – as yet – relatively few depositors have reached the retirement age or fulfilled the various conditions to be in the pension system.
The average pension payment in Chile is about $200 per month.
The government has offered to create a state-run pension fund to better regulate the system and increase the workers’ contribution from 10 percent to 15 percent of their salaries.
The pension administration agency, or AFP, and businessmen have provisionally accepted this increase, but under the condition that the resources go into individual accounts and not into a big fund, as the government is proposing, with the aim of increasing the pension payments.