THE announcement today by the organisers of the general strike in the Magallanes Region of Chile that there will be some “flexibility” in the road blocks currently in place outside the city of Punta Arenas will no doubt cause some easing of the pressure on the Chilean President to find a solution.
The Citizens’ Assembly, which is currently locked into negotiations with the Chilean Government today decided to ease restrictions on access to the region’s airport and on the roads leading to and from the region’s capital.
Foreign citizens, the elderly, children, pregnant women and people with physical disabilities who are visiting the region will be allowed access to the airport according to the special envoy of the Punta Arenas cooperative, Jorge Espinoza Cuéllar.
From 2.30 pm today, Saturday, road blocks will also be lifted for one hour in every twelve to allow essential supplies to get into the region’s cities.
Supermarkets and shops will also be open today for the purchase of essential provisions for home consumption.
Diplomatic pressure on the government of President Sebastian Piñera has been applied in response to the pleas of the many foreign tourists currently stranded in the Magallanes region of Chile.
Since just before midnight on Tuesday the region has been in the grip of a general strike in protest at increases in the price of gas and the projected removal of a government subsidy. There have been significant demonstrations and some rioting in the region’s capital Punta Arenas and all roads and ferry crossings leading into the city s have been subject to blockades, including the one leading to the region’s Presidente Carlos Ibañez Airport.
On Friday the American Ambassador called the region’s authorities asking for some solution to the problem of 150 US citizens stranded in the zone unable to return home and in the evening of the same day the American Consul General arrived in the region to give what help he could to them and also to request the help of the regional government.
Some thirty Brazilian tourists currently stranded in Puerto Natales have been the subject of official communications from the Brazilian Foreign Ministry, which has instructed its Honorary Consul in Punta Arenas to give them whatever aid they might need.
More dramatic even has been the case of some hundreds of stranded Argentinean citizens, mainly tourists, but also including lorry drivers who have not been able to get home either by air or by road due to the road blocks.
The strike has also caused the indefinite postponement of the once-weekly Saturday flight between Santiago and the Falkland Islands, which normally makes a stop in Punta Arenas.
Frustrated foreign tourists from Switzerland, Germany, England, Australia and from other cities in Chile added to the protests going on in the streets of Punta Arenas by gathering in the city’s Plaza de Armas and later outside the Salesian School to chant “queremos turistear, queremos turistear” (We just want to be tourists).
Swiss tourist Carmine Casanova who was hoping to visit Ushuaia before taking a flight to Buenos Aires today said, “We understand them and support the strike but we shouldn’t have to pay for this. The only thing we want is to be allowed through the road blocks to continue our journeys.”