10,000 march in Chile against Pinochet-era pensions

Chile’s pension system is infamous for its low returns to pensioners. (AFP pic)

SANTIAGO: Some 10,000 people marched through Santiago on Sunday demanding an end to the privatised pension system created under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, demanding improved conditions.

Waving banners and chanting noisy slogans to the sound of trumpets and drums, pensioners and workers with their families marched through Santiago demanding an end to the current system, known by its Spanish acronym AFP.

The system, which manages US$170 billion in funds, has come under fire because of the low returns to pensioners, who had been led to expect annual payments amounting to 70% of their last salary.

“This movement is looking to improve pensions, which keep falling in Chile, especially for women,” protest leader Luis Mesina told reporters.

“This demand cuts across sectors and fights for decent pensions.”

Mesina heads the “No+AFP” protest movement launched five years ago by unions that came out against the system and have organized marches of over 100,000 people.

The AFP system was created in 1981 by neoliberal economists influenced by the University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman.

Known as the “Chicago Boys,” they replaced a government funded pay-as-you-go system with one in which workers and their employers paid a proportion of their earnings into privately-run pension funds.

The demonstrators want an end to the system in favor of one that includes contributions not just from the employee, but also from the employer and the state.

Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera, who says he wants to change the Pinochet-era pension system, has pledged to outline a number of reforms that would involve bringing in insurance firms and creating a state version of the system.