Nearly one hundred people from ANDHA Chile* (Chile’s National Association for Housing Debtors) set up camp on the bank of the Mapocho River in downtown Santiago on May 7th, demanding that the government cancel their mortgage debts.
These debts are owed to private banks and were acquired by over one hundred thousand families throughout Chile who had purchased housing with government subsidies. Bank loans were needed in addition to these subsidies to help finance the cost of their housing and to pay for repairs to inadequate housing structures provided by the government.
The Chilean government is offering to cancel 50% of their debts and to re-negotiate payment of the remaining debt over a longer timeframe. However ANDHA Chile rejects this solution, having already paid for more than the value of their homes and being unwilling to be left vulnerable to the demands of private banks for the remainder of their debts.
For the past few weeks, the ANDHA Chile camp has braved the cold and the threat that rain could rise the level of the river – which lies in a passage below street level – causing their tents to flood. Moreover a constant presence of police watch over the camp from the streets above, as a security measure, and a constant threat of force.
Among the objectives of the demonstration is the call to other social organizations for solidarity and support for the fight against housing debt.
It is interesting that at the same time in another capital in a rich country from across the Atlantic, people have organized in similar ways to demand dignified housing. As such was the case in Paris on the banks of the Seine where activists and homeless people from the organization Enfants of Don Quichotte installed hundreds of tents along the Quai des Tuileries to denounce their inadequate living conditions. This camp was destroyed by the police on May 15th, 2009. Three years after installation of the first camp along the canal Saint Martin, the organization again wishes to force authorities to confront the quality of housing conditions which they say has deteriorated even further.
From the tents by the Mapocho to the tents by the Seine, one motto may be heard: Adequate Housing for All Now!
*ANDHA Chile was formed in 2006 with the primary goal of pressuring the government to cancel mortgage debts through unusual political ties with parties ranging from the extreme right to the extreme left.