Thousands of people gathered onto the street in the Chilean capital Santiago, to celebrate Valentine’s Day by demanding the resignation of the controversial national police chief who is accused of human rights violations during ongoing civil unrest in the country.
Friday’s gathering at the Plaza Italia took place in a generally peaceful and festive atmosphere, had been announced on social networks as “Valentine’s Day without Rozas”, demanding the ouster of General Mario Rozas, head of the Carabineros of Chile’s militarized national police.
The peaceful gathering was a contrast to last week’s clashes between protesters and police at the Plaza Italia, one of the most popular sites of protests in the country.
The festival is set to be held between February 23-28 in the coastal city of Vina del Mar, with the organizers deciding to hold it austerely, without a red carpet or the opening gala.
Last year, in December, hundreds of people gathered at the Costanera Center shopping mall – next to South America’s tallest skyscraper Gran Torre Santago – with dozens of protesters entering the premises.
The state-run National Human Rights Institute said that there had been 685 complaints of excessive use of force by the security forces.
The violent protests that started in mid-October prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and the deployment of soldiers in the provinces of Santiago and Chacabuco, as well as in the Metropolitan municipalities of Puente Alto and San Bernardo.
Clashes broke out between the protesters and the police in several parts of the city throughout the day and the subway was shut after attacks on several stations.
The crisis is the worst in three decades of Chilean democracy and has led to around 2,000 injuries, including some 280 people who suffered eye damage from shotgun pellets.
Although Chile has the highest per capita income of Latin America at $20,000, there is widespread frustration at privatized health care and education, rising costs of basic services and falling pensions.