The Chilean social uprising of 2019 took the country's political and economic elite by surprise. After 30 years of unprecedented growth and stability, the Chilean model of development appeared immune to violent popular outbreaks. When the riots broke out on October 18 in Santiago, therefore, conspiracy theories emerged as a convenient explanation for elites. Ignoring multiple signs of grievances prevalent in Chilean society, this approach was officially adopted by President Sebastian Piñera's government. In this article, we analyze how the Piñera government framed the causes of 2019 riots and the assumptions upon which this framing was built. We focus on the two main explanations advanced by the government: first, the "agitator view" that the riots were a destabilization attempt led by foreign left-wing regimes (Venezuela, Cuba, and even Russia). Second, the "riff-raff approach" that blamed antisocial and criminal groups (anarchists and drug traffickers) for the rioting and looting. By following the scapegoating framing, we conclude that Piñera's government sought a scapegoat to explain the unexpected crisis. It also propagated a narrative of fear to delegitimize and repress the popular dissent against the neoliberal Chilean model.


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pp. 121-135
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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