In Chile Protests, A Teenager Is Dead, 1,400 Arrested
A two-day strike culminated in a massive march that left a 16-year-old dead and close to 1,400 arrested in Chile, yesterday. The AP reports:
Deputy Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla is promising to quickly clarify who fired the bullet that killed 16-year-old Manuel Gutierrez. His friends said police fired at them without cause, while Ubilla suggested he died fighting the officers.
Looting, burning and rock-throwing led to a total of 1,394 arrests nationwide. Ubilla said Thursday that 53 civilians and 153 police officers were injured.
What started as a student boycott has become the largest mass movement Chile has seen since it re-established democracy in 1991.
The protest, reports Bloomberg, was organized by students, teacher and unionized workers and they were pushing for better labor and education conditions.
Bloomberg adds that President Sebastian Pinera has become extremely unpopular in his country; so much so that many of the protesters chanted comparisons to Chile's military dictator Augusto Pinochet:
Most employees ignored the call to strike, Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei told reporters at the presidential palace today. The Santiago public transport system is operating normally, Deputy Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla told state-owned television channel TVN. International flights weren't affected, according to the Santiago airports website.
"I am working actively trying to resolve problems but the way to do it is constructively via dialogue," Matthei said. "There are problems in education and in labor and many problems that come from the past."
The BBC reports that the reasons for the protests run deeper. Chile's economy is expected to grow 6 percent this year. But many of the protesters don't feel like they're enjoying the benefits of that growth.
"It's time to change the political system, the economic system, so there is a fairer redistribution of power and of wealth," student leader Camila Vallejo told the BBC. "All this development model has done is make a few grossly rich."
Pinera's approval rating is at 26 percent, reports the BBC. They add:
[Pinera] says the economy is providing more opportunities, and his government has insisted the correct place to assert demands for reform is at the ballot box and in Congress.
"A protest march is one thing, it is quite another thing to attempt to paralyse the country," he said.
"When the country is paralysed, nobody wins, everybody loses."