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Protests continue in Chile despite firing of hard-line ministers

DEMONSTRATIONS are continuing in Chile despite President Sebastian Pinera’s replacement of eight key cabinet ministers. 

“Chile has changed and the government must change,” Mr Pinera said on Monday, axing hard-line ministers in a bid to quell mass protests which have swept through the country for days.

But his government announced no deviation from neoliberal policies which have seen the country become one of the richest in the region — enjoyed by a privileged few while the majority struggle with a lack of quality public services, a high cost of living and grotesque inequality.

A 2017 United Nations report found that the richest 1 per cent of the population earns 33 per cent of the nation’s wealth. Mr Pinera is a billionaire, among the country’s richest people.

Despite the reshuffle, protesters have again clashed with security forces in Valparaiso, Concepcion and the capital Santiago.

“A new cabinet isn’t enough, we need real changes in healthcare, education, pensions,” said Omar Soto, 34, who runs a mobile phone shop.

And 70-year-old activist Amelia Rivera told Vice: “I’m marching against inequality, against the abuses, against classism … I realised many years ago that this country was only for rich men. I have met thousands of children that live on the street, homeless, ill-fed, bullied in school, without rights.”

During a massive protest in the capital Santiago on Friday, thousands of people played guitars and sang The Right to Live in Peace by Victor Jara. An artist and communist activist, he was brutally tortured and killed by dictator Augusto Pinochet’s soldiers five days after the US-backed coup brought him to power in September 1973.



“Last Friday we had a peaceful protest and being peaceful they didn’t listen to us,” said Sebastian, a 25-year-old welder who declined to give his last name for fear of repercussions by the authorities. “You have to get their attention somehow.”

Buildings, stores and train stations have been set on fire after some demonstrations turned violent. Police have used water cannon on protesters and at least 20 people have been killed since the protests began more than a week ago.


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