AJ: Forty years have passed since the military coup. What does that date mean for you given that you didn't experience it at the time?
AJ: The culture of protest during the dictatorship was a fight for democracy. Today there is democracy in Chile. But you are out on the streets - what are you protesting?
GB: The thing is that from our point of view, one of the main legacies of the dictatorship was the political, economic and social model. So we have the appearance of a democracy in formal terms, one in which people can vote every four years. But it's a democracy that is scared of the people, a democracy that is scared of what the majority wants, which is education, health, pensions and employment. In the last 20 years, every government that's been in power has simply administered and deepened the Pinochet legacy instead of changing it. So the culture of protests that has emerged in the past few years wants a real change, a change of paradigm, not just a social change, but a political one.
AJ: During the dictatorship, the opposition was confronted by state violence and repression. What challenges are you facing today?
GB: Today, there is still violence, there is still repression - both physical and also symbolic and economic. Violence is not just about a policeman beating you with a stick. But also when your rights are denied. When you don't have money to get a decent education, its violence when you are scared to get sick because you know that you can't afford the medical bills, when people are scared of getting old because of the miniscule pensions because of the business deals done with their savings. The way that violence manifests itself has diversified. Now it's not just the military but the political system that represses people and has taken advantage of them at the same time.
AJ: What political activists inspired you during the dictatorship? What have you learnt from them?
GB: We have learnt so much from them. We feel that we are the inheritors of the social movements that preceded us. Not just during the dictatorship but afterwards. We are well aware that the social protests here were not born out of the student protests, but from way before. We had had a dialogue with our past and with those who were part of the struggle back then - learning from their mistakes and not committing the same mistakes. I think we are looking critically at what was done during the Popular Unity government and dictatorship, but also during the so-called renovation period in which we feel that the ideals for a better world were sold off creating a system which we youth of today do not believe in. That's what we are working towards - we are trying to consolidate ourselves intellectually and politically as well as taking to the streets.
AJ: What is the legacy of dictatorship?
During the first 15 years of the transition, the political elite opted to leave the people by the wayside in a system of mass consumption where the argument was that if they have access to credit, they had nothing to complain about. So the political struggle emerged out of this situation. Today we think that social movements cannot be contained by the political elite that governs the country. And this explains why there have been social movements across Chile, not just students, but workers too.
AJ: Does Salvador Allende's legacy still resonate today?
Salvador Allende's message will always have resonance in as much as he talked about the need to build a just and fair society. But we are also very aware that we can't create left-wing heroes or idols. One of the things that has damaged the political left around the world has been the cult of political idols, and this impedes a critical reflection of our own political development. So it's important that the left avoids worshipping saints. We need to look critically at our political history, take the positive from it, but to acknowledge negative elements and leave what is no longer relevant to us today. In short: we cannot live on nostalgia.