President Sebastian Piñera ordered Police with Clubs to respond to thousands of demonstrators of the Patagonia dam project this week.
The controversial project was approved Monday evening in what some are calling a pre-determined vote. The 12-member hand selected environmental review committee voted 11 in support of the project with one abstention.
The Police clubbed protesters in the peaceful protests that spread across the country in Santiago, Valparaiso, Valdivia and Temuco. Protests were lead by some of Chile’s leading environmentalists. Among these was environmental leader and former presidential candidate Sara Larraín, who spent the evening in jail.
The local judge reviewing the arrests in Santiago on Tuesday called the police action “excessive and way out of line.”
Sen. Antonio Horvath of the Aysén Region, a member of Piñera’s own Renovación Nacional party, called Tuesday for a massive protest against HidroAysén on May 21, the day the president gives his annual state of the union speech.
“Speaking politically, I think the Piñera administration just scored an own goal,” said Horvath, referring to police actions at Monday’s protests.
Hidroaysén is a project that contemplates the construction and operations of five hydroelectric power plants, two in Baker River and three in Pascua River, located in Aysén Region, south Chile.
Environmentalists who question the project argue it will dam around 6,000 hectares in the remote southern Chilean Patagonia. This will have a deep environmental impact in a place as pure as that. The Aysén region is the less populated region in Chile and is famous for its beauty and isolation. A growing ecotourism industry has been developing in the area lately, which would be damaged by the dams.
This will mean power cables and 5,000 towers of 50 meters tall, one every 400 meters, along 2,200km. The effect will be the deforestation of 23,000 hectares, and six national parks as well as 11 national reserves will be damaged.