Thousands of protesters on Tuesday took to the streets in Chile in nationwide demonstrations tinged with violence, protesting against embattled President Sebastian Pinera and calling for economic and political change.
In Santiago, more than thousands 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.
Earlier 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.
Karla Rubilar, the government’s new spokeswoman said, “It’s not about people who want social justice, who want things to be better, they are people who want destruction, chaos”.
Protesters are demanding Pinera’s resignation despite his making a raft of concessions including an increase in the minimum wage and pensions.
On Tuesday, other demonstrations took place in the cities of Valparaiso and Concepcion, according to social media.
The latest rallies came as Chile’s new Finance Minister Ignacio Briones said the country is facing a “very bad” end to Chile’s economic year due to the protests, in which at least 20 people have died.
Last week, Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera said that the Chilean government would ask the UN to send human rights observers to monitor the nationwide protests.
President Sebastian Pinera was planning to contact UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet – who also happens to be his predecessor as Chile’s leader – to ask her to deploy a team of rapporteurs, according to the foreign ministry.
Bachelet, former Chilean president took to Twitter, saying “Having monitored the crisis from the beginning I have decided to send a verification mission to examine reports of human rights violations in Chile”.
The increase in the price of subway tickets set off a wave of protests, which, as the days went by, left citizens feeling that enough was enough. The meagre pensions and wages and the high prices of electricity, gas, university education and healthcare sparked a social explosion of a kind not seen since the end of the dictatorship in 1990.
In response to the protests, the Chilean president decided to do something about certain elements of the political, economic and social model that are most rejected by the population, such as low pensions, the high cost of medicines and the paltry public healthcare system.
(With inputs from agency)