Conflicts & War

Chilean gov’t, opposition blame each other for violence at protests

Santiago, Oct 19 (EFE).- Chile’s right-wing government and its opponents traded accusations Tuesday after disturbances surrounding the commemoration of the second anniversary of the start of a popular uprising that led to the convening of a constitutional convention resulted in two deaths and 450 arrests.

“We saw two types of demonstrations yesterday. We saw peaceful ones, to which citizens have every right and are part of democracy,” government spokesman Jaime Bellolio said. “However, we also saw violent demonstrations by criminals, by vandals.”

Monday’s activity began with a large, festive gathering in Santiago’s Plaza Italia, the epicenter of the mobilization that erupted on Oct. 18, 2019.

But as night fell, hooded militants set fire to bus stops, destroyed streetlights, set up barricades and looted a number of businesses.

Police responded with tear gas and water cannon.

“To those who think they can accomplish something by looting or destroying, we say ‘no,'” leftist lawmaker Gabriel Boric, who is leading in the polls ahead of the Nov. 21 presidential election, said Tuesday.

Violent protesters should be subjected to “the full rigor of the law,” Boric said, adding that the standard applies to “those who commit crimes in a collar and tie, such as the president.”

Boric was referring to the launch of a criminal probe of outgoing head of state Sebastian Piñera following revelations in the Pandora Papers pointing to possible tax evasion in his sale of a mining company in 2010.

Besides the disturbances in the capital, Tuesday also witnessed trouble in the coastal city of Valparaiso, where Congress meets, and other urban areas.

The Carabineros, Chile’s militarized national police, said that one person was fatally shot Monday night in connection with looting, while the other fatality was due to a motorcycle accident.

“The violent actions and the small groups who carried them out have no justification, neither does the failure of the government to preserve order or distinguish protesters from criminals,” Christian Democratic presidential candidate Yasna Provoste said.

On behalf of the government, Bellolio blamed Boric, Provoste and other opposition leaders for promoting a bill that would extend amnesty to all of the people who were arrested during the 2019 protests.

“It’s not enough to say ‘I condemn the violence’ at the same time you propose a bill to pardon the same offenses we saw yesterday,” the spokesman said.

A senator who ran for president in 2018 and is now advising the Provoste campaign mocked Piñera for seeking to shift the blame for Monday’s scenes.

“He holds the opposition candidates responsible, as if they are governing Chile,” Alejandro Guillier said.

Chile’s deepest crisis since the end of Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship began as a protest against a small metro fare hike but quickly turned into a broad uprising to demand a more equitable economic model in a country where the richest 1 percent of the population controls more than a quarter of national wealth.

More than 30 people died in the course of protests, many at the hands of the Carabineros, who have been denounced by organizations such as Amnesty International.

One provision under consideration at the constitutional convention that got under way a few months ago would abolish the Carabineros. EFE


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