SANTIAGO – Chilean fishermen on Wednesday took to the streets in several cities around the country to demand the nullification of the law regulating the sector, set up barricades and faced off with police, union sources and the authorities reported.
The demonstrators, who blocked roads and streets, disrupted traffic in the regions of Arica, Tarapaca, Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Bio Bio and Los Lagos, across the length of the country.
The fishermen demanded that the Fishing Law be overturned, a measure approved during the 2010-2014 government of Sebastian Piñera and which, according to their leaders, seriously limits their activities and “privatizes” – in practice – the ocean, placing fishing activities into the hands of the country’s seven largest fishing firms.
The law, known as the Longueira Law because it was promoted and handled by Pablo Longueira, Piñera’s economy minister, since its approval was stained by corrupt acts involving the ex-minister in investigations by the Justice Department.
Longueira is currently under nighttime house arrest.
Rightist Sen. Jaime Orpis, was removed from office, imprisoned for a month and is currently under full house arrest after it was determined that for years he received monthly payments from one of the country’s main fishing firms, whose directors changed and revised, before it was voted upon, the law’s articles.
In the context of the irregularities, a prosecutor was punished by his superiors when he said in an interview that the law “was corruptly handled and delivered.”
In the northern city of Iquique, at least seven people were arrested when fishermen raised barricades and blocked access to the port and the free trade zone there, some 1,854 kilometers (1,150 miles) north of Santiago.
In Valparaiso, downtown avenues were blocked by demonstrators, who confronted police, although no figures have been made public yet as to arrests or injuries.
In the southern Bio Bio region, fishermen in the towns of Coronel and Lota set up burning barricades at various spots, including Playa Blanca, Colcura, Lebu and Arauco and confronted police.
Regional leaders of the fishermen in Bio Bio announced for Friday afternoon a march to the regional government headquarters to make their demands known to authorities.