I would like to thank the Institute for Policy Studies. I thank IPS not only for this Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award that you’ve given the Chilean Students Movement for our struggle to recover the right to an education, but also for what you stand for and your ties to everything that’s happening today in Chile.
After 39 years, it’s impossible — even for young people like us who were born after 1988 — to study the history of Orlando Letelier or anyone else who was tortured or assassinated during the dictatorship without feeling paid. We feel the pain of injustice, the pain of that inhumanity, and the pain of a great blow to democracy that hasn’t healed to this day.
And although there’s been a powerful attempt to erase our collective memory and silence our entire nation, in Chile we won’t forget. We can’t forget the Pinochet dictactorship’s victims, just as we can’t forget the aspirations of the movement that gave rise to Salvador Allende’s government.
That movement was interrupted by a violent coup and a brutal and bloody dictatorship. But it wasn’t defeated, it was interrupted. Its driving force and principles were to defend the interests and dignity of the people.
That movement respected human rights while aspiring to grant all men and women access to a decent education and quality health care. That movement aimed to bring the benefits of our nation’s natural wealth to all Chileans. That movement built sovereignty while strengthening democracy.
In that movement, men and women developed the awareness and will to organize for justice and freedom.
I believe that the Institute, through its work, represents women and men like Ronni and Orlando — people who embodied this movement’s ideals and gave their lives for their activism.
It is with sorrow, but also with joy and hope that we cherish the ideas and ideals that embody this movement — the defense of human rights and the struggle for social justice.
Many Chileans are now taking back the reins of history, as indicated by today’s great social movements. We must recover from the Pinochet dictatorship’s terrible consequences if we want to have a true democracy.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights affirmed that even today there still is no justice in Chile because our electoral sytstem guarantees that human rights violators are over-represented in our parliament, relative to their victims.
In our country, there is no justice. Even if we don’t have a dictator anymore, we still haven’t gotten rid of the political model that his regime imposed upon us — a market-driven dictatorship. This neoliberal model has proven to be incompatible with respect for human rights. When the great wealth of the very few is derived from the life and work of the vast majority, it isn’t compatible with democracy.
Our best way to thank you for this award is to carry on with the historic work to which we have dedicated our lives. We will continue to fight for universal, high-quality, and free public education, workers’ rights, and excellent health care for all. We will fight to nationalize Chile’s natural resources once again. We will continue the struggle for self-determination and respect that our indigenous peoples deserve.
Today, Chile’s indigenous people are a shining example of resistance to the repression and militarization they endure at the hands of our government. We should fight for a new Chilean Constitution, which will shed the neoliberal state the dictatorship imposed on us for the benefit the nation’s richest people.
As Allende said, the Chilean people’s struggle isn’t a fight among generations, and it’s certainly not the monopoly of one political party. This must be a struggle by workers, students, professionals, and many social and political movements ready to take on the challenge of joining together despite our differences, because we have grasped the historic challenge that we face.
That is why I would like to dedicate this award not just to all Chilean students, who technically won it, but also to our professors and teachers, as well as the indigenous peoples of Chile.
Appropriately enough, in Chile we celebrate Teachers Day every October 16. Just yesterday, we paid tribute to them.
I am also dedicating this award to the indigenous Mapuche people currently held as political prisoners — including the four who have been on a hunger strike for nearly two months. After hundreds of years of resistance, they are not giving up the fight for their land or their right to their own culture. This award is for everyone who is fighting to make Chile a better place.
Camila Vallejo is the vice-president of the Confederation of Chilean Students (Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile). She and Noam Titelman accepted a 2012 Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award from the Institute for Policy Studies.