Protesters take to the streets in Santiago, other Chilean cities


A demonstrator clashes with riot police during a protest against the government’s economic policies in Santiago. — AFP photo

SANTIAGO: Thousands of Chileans took to the streets on Tuesday in nationwide demonstrations tinged with violence, protesting against embattled President Sebastian Pinera and calling for economic and political change.

In Santiago alone, some 10,000 people gathered in the main Plaza Italia square, with some attempting to make their way to the heavily cordoned presidential palace and engaging in clashes with riot police.

The skirmishing, which marked an 11th day of protests, saw water cannon and tear gas rounds from police as well as rock-throwing by demonstrators.

On Monday, violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces broke out only hours after Pinera announced a cabinet reshuffle.

Shops were looted while one building was engulfed in flames, reminiscent of the violence that erupted in the early days of the protests, which began on October 18.

“It’s not about people who want social justice, who want things to be better, they are people who want destruction, chaos,” said Karla Rubilar, the government’s new spokeswoman.

She stressed the contrast between the recent chaos and a peaceful protest held on Friday, which involved 1.2 million people, according to official figures.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Hernan Larrain said Tuesday that the government recognized there had been some situations involving law enforcement during the protests, in which at least 20 people have died, that “appear to be human rights violations.”

And Amnesty International’s tactical campaign and crisis response chief Cesar Marin said the organization – which is investigating more than 100 complaints of police abuse – is especially concerned about charges of “sexual torture,” reports of eye injuries and situations in which police or military action directly led to a death.

A mission led the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights Michelle Bachelet — Chile’s former president — is expected later this week.

Other demonstrations took place in the cities of Valparaiso and Concepcion Tuesday, according to social media. — AFP