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Violent protests resurface in Chile two weeks after the plebiscite for a new Constitution

A protester waves a Chilean flag in a protest against the Government of Sebastián Piñera, this Friday.ELVIS GONZÁLEZ / EFE

Some 1,500 people gathered on Friday night in Santiago de Chile, at the epicenter of the city’s protests, in Plaza Baquedano, despite the fact that due to the pandemic there is a ban on gathering in groups of more than 50 in public spaces. According to the Carabineros, which arrested at least six people, it was the “most massive and violent” demonstration since the explosion of the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-March. A group of about 400 violent people set up barricades, tried to loot business premises, burned one bus and damaged another, cut off traffic and destroyed private and public infrastructure, such as traffic lights, bus stops, plaza benches, streetlights and sidewalks, which they occupy to launch at police.

The incidents occurred a week after the fall of a 16-year-old adolescent into the Mapocho River, for which a police officer was accused of attempted murder by the Prosecutor’s Office. Also a few days before the first anniversary of the revolts of October 18, 2019 and two weeks before the constitutional plebiscite of October 25, the most important referendum in the history of Chile in the last 30 years, which will decide the future of the Constitution drafted. 1980, in the Pinochet dictatorship.

“The images we saw last night do not fit. This is the time to call for unity and dialogue and the necessary conversation, ahead of October 25, “said the Government spokesman, Minister Jaime Bellolio, this morning after a meeting led by President Sebastián Piñera in La Currency to deal with the ruling party on matters related to order and security.

The mayor of Santiago, the official Felipe Alessandri, described the violent men as “city terrorists.” “The situation we are seeing is reliving the nightmare of October and November of last year in which the neighbors saw how their neighborhood, their surroundings, the small restaurants and hostels in the sector, were destroyed,” Alessandri said on Friday night to the television channel 24 hours. He described it as “pure and simple crime.” “As mayor, we can’t do it anymore. We invested 3,000 million dollars that we did not have in recovering the city. It is really disappointing, “said the mayor of Santiago.

Alessandri also referred to the performance of the police. According to the mayor, the uniformed men have been “very timid, a product of the current political moment.” “The neighbors themselves are going to go out to defend their territories and we don’t want a civil war. That’s how dramatic the situation is, ”he said.

Although even before the social outbreak of a year ago, the serious problems of the Carabineros had become evident – with cases of corruption and assemblages -, with the protests of 2019 their shortcomings became evident due to the repeated non-compliance with the protocols for the use of force. to control public order. Over the months, however, Chile has not carried out a profound reform of the institution, a consensus among all political sectors. On Friday, after the Mapocho river incident, President Piñera led a meeting in La Moneda with the country’s main authorities to give new impetus to modernization of the security and order forces.

The Government has resisted removing the general director of the institution, Mario Rozas, on such sensitive dates, when it is essential to maintain peace in the streets. Piñera, on the other hand, barely began his secure government in 2018, he carried out a cleanup and beheaded the entire high command. In his Administration, therefore, he has already had three general directors of the Carabineros.

Opposition leaders criticized the incidents: “The violence registered tonight against small businesses, public infrastructure and public transport is absolutely reprehensible, and only helps those who do not want a safe and participatory plebiscite. We are going to win with the approval and the constitutional convention, without hatred and without violence ”, wrote the president of the PPD party, Heraldo Muñoz.

The incidents were replicated in three other areas of Santiago and in two cities in the north of the country, in the Atacama and Antofagasta regions.