Eviction of the “Toma 17 de Mayo”: “They wanted an exemplary punishment”

We publish an unofficial translation of the article of the newspaper El Pueblo.

In the commune of Cerro Navia, in Santiago, the Toma 17 de Mayo existed for 5 years, occupying a vacant site of 11 hectares owned by the Guzmán Nieto family, the most powerful latifundium family in the western sector of the capital and main shareholder of the ENEA Ciudad Aeropuerto industrial warehouse project. This community of poor families faced the interests of large capitals and big landowners, their entire State apparatus and their repressive laws, developing in struggle and resistance for the right to decent housing and to unite the struggles of the homeless in different points of the country. Their eviction, carried out with an unprecedented police force, announces a new phase in the anti-people policy of the old reactionary State that today heads the government of Gabriel Boric.

The day of infamy

In the early hours of Thursday, May 16, a contingent of more than 400 police military troops were mobilized to surround on all sides the 11-hectare land in the commune of Cerro Navia, which for five years was occupied by more than 200 families to build their homes and an organized community.

While the children were getting ready for school and many residents had gone to work, tear gas bombs began to flood the houses and yards. Using armored vehicles, they forced the main access door and using water cannons, pepper spray and beatings, they repressed the residents who were trying to stop the police advance to protect the small children, some of whom fainted and even had to be urgently treated due to asphyxiating gases.

Police checkpoints prevented people from entering from outside. The press was also not authorized to record the brutal procedure, whose purpose was to destroy the homes and the organized community that was built with the efforts of its own inhabitants. Even so, television channels began to report that police officers had been received with weapons and petrol bombs, which was denied by the residents.


In this way, by order of the Supreme Court of Justice, at the request of the Guzman Nieto landowner family, and in coordination between Mayor Mauro Tamayo, the Metropolitan Housing Service and the Presidential Delegation, the largest police contingent ever was mobilized. seen before to evict a group of poor families. A police mobilization only comparable to those carried out in Araucana against the Mapuche communities recovering their lands.

In the midst of police harassment that disregarded any protocol or international treaty on fundamental rights, while heavy machinery and fire turned houses and community spaces into ashes, the residents rescued what they could, however they could, using only their own means and solidarity help of numerous people’s organizations and people who went beyond the police cordon to provide support to the residents.

They wanted an exemplary punishment”

“Why did they do this? Why was the eviction if a meeting had been scheduled at Serviu? -the leaders of the Toma 17 May denounced after the eviction. Because they wanted an exemplary punishment for whoever dares to take land, for whoever dares to take charge of rights and take charge of dignity with their own hands.

And in fact, the land occupations demonstrate that the people can take the solution to the housing problem into their own hands. They show that the organization and infinite creativity of the masses can do anything. That it was enough to recover the land that had been denied to them and build on it to solve overcrowding and improve the lives of hundreds of people. “The State was not asked for a single peso. They have not put anything, not a single nail, only obstacles,” said neighbor Sole when talking about the history of the encampment. They showed that with their means it was possible to solve access to electricity and drinking water, build their houses, a school and community spaces only with the support of other popular organizations and without waiting for subsidies from the State, which do not arrive in 15 or 20 years.

That the poor solve their problems and take the destiny of their lives into their own hands is what this reactionary and anti-people State cannot allow. They cannot accept that the poor raise their heads.

In public speeches, the government and municipalities call this “skipping the line.” For them, “doing things right” means that families who can pay go into debt with mortgage loans and those who cannot, live in overcrowded conditions for 20 years waiting for “the line” to move forward. And after those 20 years, when their children grow up, they have to stand in line for 20 more years.

And it was even more unacceptable to them that the Toma 17 de Mayo joined other takeovers and camps and popular organizations to denounce the Anti-Takeover Law, as soon as it was put up for discussion in parliament, at the initiative of the right, but with the support of the government of the Frente Amplio, which continued and developed the repressive agenda started by Piñera. Press points and coordination meetings with organizations fighting for housing were held in Toma 17 de Mayo and other organized communities, always with the active participation of the residents who have now been evicted.

The struggle for a place to live has taught residents to understand that conquering their rights will be a long struggle and that it requires the unity and solidarity of different sectors of the people. These residents have had to learn to trust each other again and trust in their own strength, since the previous work of opportunism and bad organizational experiences sow hopelessness and disunity. Thus, in the midst of difficulties, the forms of organization that the Toma 17 de Mayo found managed to overcome the pessimism that overwhelmed the majority of popular organizations after the 2019 revolt, and maintain systematic mobilization against all the bureaucratic institutions of the State.

The indolence of the authorities in the face of the deep housing crisis taught these residents that protest was the only way to get their demands across. And it was always with mobilization that the meetings started and letters with their proposals could be presented to the municipality, Serviu, the Ministry of Housing and all the institutions involved. Even Gabriel Boric himself was questioned in enforcing his campaign promises and his program in relation to there being no evictions without a housing solution.

The working table established with the municipality, Serviu and other government agencies to find a housing solution for families, the more than 50 meeting minutes recorded, show once again that state institutions are in no hurry to resolve the needs of the poorest. These institutions only respond with agility to serve the interests of the rich.

Justice for the rich and justice for the poor

In parallel, the legal offensive to evict the Toma 17 de Mayo was carried out through lawsuits and protection appeals filed by the Guzmán Nieto family. The valuable work of the lawyers of the Anti-Repression and People’s Defense Movement, who unconditionally supported the residents, managed to temporarily stop several of these resources, but in the face of a legal framework that defends private property over social rights, the order eviction notice would arrive sooner or later.

Faced with the eviction order, the residents of Toma 17 de Mayo presented a proposal in early April to the Ministry of Housing and the Guzman Nietos to relocate La Toma and allow the development of public works projects that were obstructed by the location of houses. This proposal – well founded by architects and other professionals at the service of the people – was never answered.

No will was shown by the “progressive” government to resolve alternatives to the eviction. At the same time that the municipal and Serviu authorities indicated that in the case of the ruling against the Toma 17 de Mayo “nothing could be done”, the government and all the electoral parties worked together to find a political agreement to save the isapres [translators note; private health insurances created during the regime of Pinochet] by making a ruling of the Supreme Court against them, going so far as to modify the legislation to pardon the monopolistic capitals from paying a million-dollar fine.

Continuing with its policy of misuse of public resources, the government claims to have given a “solution” to the residents with a monetary contribution for a period of one year, with which they had to look for a lease. The same residents immediately presented a counterproposal to use those same resources to buy land where the families would be relocated, but this was also denied.

This eviction and the enormous use of resources by police forces coordinated by the municipality, Serviu and the Presidential Delegation can be seen as a new phase in the anti-people policy of the State currently headed by Gabriel Boric, a phase in which it appears more evident that the institutions and resources of this reactionary State are not designed to solve the problems of the people, but to protect large property. It is a new attack against the poorest and against their fighting organizations, which has been prepared with a communication campaign in all the monopolistic press media, with the approval of new repressive laws and with the issuance of a series of judicial sentences of eviction against seizures and camps that can be carried out at any time.

The more than 114 thousand families that live in occupations and camps throughout the country, and the people in general, must inevitably learn to develop greater and higher forms of organization and struggle to defend their right to a dignified life.

Solidarity and support

From the minute the eviction of the Toma 17 de Mayo began, the solidarity of dozens of organizations and hundreds of people in different places in the country and abroad was also evident.

Transportation, health care, food and shelters were quickly managed by people’s organizations that support the struggle. Protest actions were carried out in Santiago and San Antonio that same day, while numerous messages of solidarity and statements of support have been directed through social networks towards the evicted residents.

In response to this eviction, organizations fighting for housing have called for a day of national protest for the right to housing and against evictions for next Wednesday, May 22, to which student organizations have already joined.

The almost 200 families that lived in the Toma 17 de Mayo are now dispersed. But the majority of the families that resisted the eviction of the Toma 17 de Mayo until the last day remain firmly united in the struggle to conquer a decent place to live. Even when they have been severely beaten and once again thrown onto the street, into overcrowding and confinement, they express their decision to maintain their organization to continue firmly until they conquer land, housing and dignity.

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