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A Decent Home and the Libertarians, Chile

category bolivia / peru / ecuador / chile | community struggles | opinion / analysis author Thursday March 02, 2006 22:56author by poblador Report this post to the editors

Arriba los que luchan!!!!

The main problem, namely the housing problem, divides the society into two: those who become mortgage debtors unable to pay high repayments and face evictions regularly and those who will never be able to buy any property and end up becoming the so called “allegados”, in other words, people living in cramped conditions with their relatives in households usually consisting of several families. This situation normally entails day to day problems arising within the households.

A Decent Home and the Libertarians

Chile wants to show itself as a developing country with a flamboyant economy. However, basic needs like Public Health, housing, or education are only a privilege for the rich. Meanwhile, the workers, surviving on miserable salaries, are left out of the game.

The main problem, namely the housing problem, divides the society into two: those who become mortgage debtors unable to pay high repayments and face evictions regularly and those who will never be able to buy any property and end up becoming the so called “allegados”, in other words, people living in cramped conditions with their relatives in households usually consisting of several families. This situation normally entails day to day problems arising within the households.

We, the Libertarian Communists, think that it is in our hands to find a way out to this madness. We are the workers and the settlers, who organising and fighting for our rights can find a solution to this.

With our will, struggle, unity and perseverance, we will force the government to change their housing policies so that they become more favorable for workers and their families and meet the needs of the most impoverished citizens. It is only through direct action and the building of a popular movement that we can achieve our goal to be able to enjoy decent housing and lives at last.

Mortgage Debt, an unbearable burden

There are two basic requirements needed to buy a property. First, having some substantial savings in the bank and secondly, having a permanent job with a considerable salary. In Chile, this means only a certain amount of people would be able to apply for a mortgage. However, reality shows us a good percentage of present debtors applied for a mortgage distorting figures such as annual incomes so that they would be their loan approved and become slaves of the bank for the next 20 or 30 years. Some of these debtors are forced to pay repayments at a cost of more than two thirds of their salary. Unfortunately, after some time struggling to repay these astronomical figures, they end up being evicted from their homes.

SERVIU, the Chilean Housing Department, agrees these mortgages with the banks who similarly hire INVERCA, the company behind most of the evictions. There are also names worth to mention like Sergio Solís, known friend of politicians alike and entrepeneur linked to these debt collection companies and former advisor of the Pinochet government in the decade of 1980's.

In brief, 260,000 people are unable to pay their mortgages and are coming together to become an organised movement capable of fighting back this unfair situation against the government. Thanks to their demostrations, barricades and occupations, this popular movement after many headaches inflicted to the government, saw their efforts rewarded by the cancellation of the debt of nearly 60% of the debtors.

This is the only way to stop the arrogance of the careless rich. However, there is still a long way to go until the other appoximately 40% of the debtors see their problem sorted.

The “allegados”

Those who have lived as “allegados” know very well the cramped conditions that thousands of families face daily nowadays. They don't have the minimum space required for children to grow up in a proper environment and couples can't enjoy any intimacy. This situation does not prevent the government from ignoring the problem and from trying to fix a big problem with constant patches that don't solve the main problem. They could actually be considered as simple servants of the building companies in a mission to get rid off the poor from the city centre. This process of expulsion is disguised under the name of “urban development plan” designed in theory by the Housing Department, the building companies and the different municipalities. However, in practice nobody is asked about these changes and urban redevelopments. No worker is asked where they would like to live.

The only solution so far given by the government are the 28 sq.m. houses deficiently built in the outskirts of the cities. There are four main actors in this conflict: the State, who is unable to provide decent housing to workers; the building companies, who have turned the market into a monopoly and sets the price of properties to incredibly high levels; the rich landowners, who especulate with their lands and sell them at excessive prices and finally the private banks, who set unrealistic interest rates to poor people enslaving them for decades.

Historically, the committees of “allegados” have fought against these unfair situations through occupations. These occupations were first seen in the 1930's near Santiago, and were promoted by mine workers and their families from the northern salt mines. La Legua, near Santiago, is a good example of this first occupations. At first, the government only reaction was to build up sanitary huts but ended up regularising the villages.

This was the case until the end of the dictatorship and the arrival of the so called “democracy”, when governments began to become involved in these actions and the movement lost its power, being neutralised by the sponsoring state. However, it is now in the 21st Century that we are seeing since a few years ago new committees of allegados ready to fight and coming together and coordinating little by little, creating a unity of those lacking housing. This unity is not springing out from the alliance of political parties, but from the rank and file, from the assemblies and in the neighbourhoods.

These new committees of allegados, made up from different perspectives, know that there will be no magical solutions and that they can't be waiting forever to sort this out as the government suggest, with waiting times ranging between five to ten years. The new movement is quite clear that only with organisation and struggle we can get the goods. Combining the historical methods of struggle such as marches and occupations with new methods, such as occupying public offices and symbollicaly occupying houses, we are building a conscious people.

Unlike the house debtors’ movement, the allegados have not been able to create a strong block… but we are on that task.

In the face of the never ending problem of the city expansion, the government has been unable to give a solution of common sense, as the rule is the one of the market and money logic. Only the unity of the different organizations will be able to impose to the bourgeoisie an authentic urban reform, a new way of organising the space in the city, for decent housing to be built. Thus, we want a new type of neighborhoods to come to life, one in which there are no cramped conditions, with plenty of public spaces where the families and their children can live decently.

What do we have to learn from this struggle?

It’s for our active participation in the popular organizations when our militancy makes sense, as we are part of the neighbors struggling for a better life. As Libertarian Communists, we believe that the best way to lead the movement is working hand in hand in it, becoming a part of this experience, for those housewives that face the struggle, those neighbors taking part in this fight, are our mothers, our fathers, our siblings. This way we learn from popular wisdom, of social militancy and from our political aim: a Libertarian and Communist society.

A reasonable way to give a continuity to this struggle is to learn each day from this political lessons. This way, we confirm in practice, that electoral solutions are no good, as they only justify and perpetuate an inhumane system. We see that leftist parties, some of them with very good intentions, are squandering their militant efforts in electoral campaigns; if all of that energy was used to build a popular movement… it would be quite another story.

A project for a new society; a revolutionary program is possible only when there is a powerful and independent social movement, for that program is built between everyone. That movement is starting to take off, it’s been giving its first steps, exercising its first measures of force. And will keep growing with each new social fighter to be born.

Arriba los que luchan!!!!!

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