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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hundreds Arrested in Chile Clashes

There seems to be reaction against neo-liberal policies and the gross inequalities in most South American regimes. Bolivia seems to be experiencing a reaction against the successful grass roots movement by the elites. Not much news about the struggles in Chile in North America.

Hundreds arrested in clashes with
Chileans take to streets in anger at regimeEconomic inequality at heart

of protest in capital

Jonathan Franklin in Santiago and agencies
Thursday August 30, 2007

Guardian

Thousands of Chileans took to the streets yesterday in a burgeoning
middle class revolt against the 17 years of coalition government that
has ruled since the fall of Augusto Pinochet in 1990.

Hundreds of Chileans were arrested as they approached the presidential
palace. Squares in and around the palace became a chaotic mix of
mounted
police, riot troops and teargas. As water cannons blasted protesters,
waves of students counterattacked with rocks. Burning barricades almost

closed central Santiago.

Television images showed senator Alejandro Navarro, of President
Michelle Bachelet's Socialist party, bleeding from the back of his head

after apparently being clubbed by a police officer. The deputy interior

minister, Felipe Harboe, said the incident would be investigated. Mr
Navarro, who was treated in hospital, supported the protest.

"This protest will start to change things. There will be one after
another," said Arturo Martinez, of United Workers Central, the trade
union that organised the protest. The union is tapping into widespread
anger at economic inequality in Chilean society. As riot police and
ruling party politicians tried to play down the protests, the capital
was filled by protesters demanding higher pensions, better public
transport, subsidised housing and a halt to rising food and electricity

prices.

President Bachelet initially defended her record as a progressive
politician, then conceded and promised "subsidies to all" families in
need and a "short-term solution" for economic inequality. "Nobody can
say that my government's programmes are not fair and equitable. I will
not accept questioning of my work on social justice," she said. "The
solutions to these inequalities and the goal of a more equitable Chile
are obtained with dialogue, maturity, work and agreements. Through this

process there will be discord, but also common understanding."

While government officials tried to ignore the protests, union leaders
such as Mr Martinez threatened to lay siege to Santiago by shutting
down
major avenues and roads leading into the city.

Throughout the day, protesters repeatedly attempted to approach the
presidential palace, which late on Tuesday was briefly occupied by
low-income housing residents who stormed the building. At least 30
members managed to scale the iron window grates, dangling from the
palace screaming anti-government slogans.

Yesterday's protest comes after weeks of labour action, including
strikes by poultry workers in southern Chile and copper miners in the
north. Union leaders called the demonstrations to protest against the
government's "neo-liberal" economic policies and to further the
national
debate about the country's minimum wage.

Salaries for workers have been at the forefront of public debate after
recent statements by Bishop Alejandro Goic calling for "an ethical
[minimum] wage" for Chilean workers

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