June 19, 2013
Second day of strike in Chile against Piñera
Protesters scuffled with police in the Chilean capital today, the second of a two-day strike against President Sebastian Piñera marked by sporadic looting and more protests.
The day began with a large and noisy pot-banging protest known as a "caceroleo," carried out by students who have been boycotting classes for three months to demand improvements in public education system along with other claims.
Youths set fire to piles of trash at some intersections in Santiago and other cities to block traffic, and police used water cannon and tear gas to defuse the latest rash of social unrest against conservative billionaire Piñera's policies.
The government said hundreds of people had been detained since yesterday as violence flared overnight, when dozens of shops, supermarkets and gas station kiosks were looted and buses damaged. Authorities stated 36 people - 19 police officers and 17 civilians - were wounded and 348 people taken into custody yesterday.
The government says only a fraction of public sector workers have joined the strike, called by Chile's main umbrella labor union CUT, which follows huge demonstrations led by students to demand free education and greater distribution of the spoils of a copper price boom in the top world producer.
"We've had numerous episodes of hooded protesters in small groups spreading out and damaging and looting different ... shops, businesses and supermarkets," said Rodrigo Ubilla, Interior Ministry undersecretary.
Public transportation was running, and operations at some of the world's biggest copper mines were not affected by the protests that also seek to pressure the government into raising wages and revamping the constitution and tax system.
Previous governments have faced one-day national strikes, but it was the first 48-hour national strike since the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. A recent poll showed Pinera is the least popular president since Pinochet's rule ended.