SANTIAGO – A 71-year-old man was asphyxiated on Saturday in a fire ignited in Valparaiso by protesters in the streets of this Chilean city, while President Michelle Bachelet appeared before Congress to make her third official report on the results of her presidency.
Interior Minister Jorge Burgos confirmed the death of Eduardo Lara, a security guard who was on the second floor of a building when it was set on fire, and which contains offices of the Valparaiso municipality.
Firemen rescued the man from the building, tried to revive him and then took him to a hospital where he died soon afterwards.
Bachelet condemned the guard’s death and said “this is not justified in a democratic country where there are places to protest, but not with these levels of violence.”
“This is despicable and all Chile condemns it,” the president said in a brief statement to reporters.
Government spokesman Marcelo Diaz said that “nothing justifies” what happened and announced legal measures would be taken to criminally charge the perpetrators.
Diaz regretted the actions of “criminals who use peaceful demonstrations to commit crime, destruction and vandalism.”
As happens every year, social organizations staged a demonstration outside Congress while the president gave a formal accounting of her public service.
The demonstration, however, soon degenerated into violent clashes between groups of hooded protesters, who pillaged and set fire to two buildings, and the police.
Several units of firefighters are working to quench the flames burning several affected buildings, one with offices of the Valparaiso municipality and the other with several retail stores.
Both are in the downtown area, some 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of Santiago.