SANTIAGO – In what is now a weekly occurrence since a serious social crisis erupted in Chile, hundreds of people gathered on Friday in the capital to protest the government and inequality, rounding up a week marked by the feminist strike and student protests.
Banging drums and saucepans, demonstrators sang songs such as “The united people will never be defeated,” “Chile woke up” or “The dance of those who are left over” by rock band Los Prisioneros, which have become symbols during the protests in Santiago’s Plaza Italia.
“I think that, despite the government’s strategy to create panic with the coronavirus outbreak, people will continue to march. Young people know that the people who are at risk are the elderly,” Liseth Toledo University told EFE referring to COVID-19, which has become a pandemic.
Demonstrators also paid tribute to Cristian Valdebenito, a 48-year-old protester who died on March 7 after allegedly being shot by a tear gas canister in the head during another protest in Plaza Italia.
The gathering was mostly peaceful, although there were clashes around the plaza when police tried to disperse protesters with tear gas and water-launch trucks, as the latter responded by throwing stones.
A dozen hooded men also attacked an abandoned bus and blocked a street with it while a group of students demonstrated in Plaza Nuñoa, another roundabout in the capital, and damaged public infrastructure.
Recent protests in Chile – the most serious since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1990 – have killed at least 30 and injured thousands since October. They decreased in February following the summer break but resumed in March following the return to work and classes.
This week began with the Monday feminist strike to mark International Women’s Day and continued with student protests countrywide, which in Santiago caused traffic problems.
The week was also marked by the first public appearance of Gustavo Gatica, a young man who lost his sight in November after an agent shot two pellets at his face.
Shouting “Piñera, guilty, your hands are bloodied!” Gatica shouted Wednesday walking around Plaza Italia, holding his brother and accompanied by a small group of friends, a day which also marked two years since the election of conservative Chilean President Sebastian Piñera.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights also denounced on Thursday that protesters’ rights in Chile continued to be violated and that the state had practically failed to comply with any of the 21 recommendations the agency made three months ago.