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Six police officers wounded during Chile's second day of protests


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Six police officers wounded during Chile's second day of protests

2011-08-26 06:10:59 GMT+7 (ICT)

SANTIAGO, CHILE (BNO NEWS) -- Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Thursday during the second day of nationwide strikes and massive protests.

Chile's Central Workers' Union (CUT) on Wednesday organized a 48-hour nationwide strike, demanding improved labor and education conditions. According to CUT president Arturo Martínez, the general strike is being held to express the demands from various social sectors, to demand respect for social and citizen rights and to reiterate the need to have a country with a new economic model, a new constitution and a new work code. The rally's resolution also calls for an immediate referendum on education.

Protests have turned violent, however. Deputy Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla said that during the events from Wednesday night and until early Thursday morning, six members of Chile's National Police, which are known as 'Carabineros,' received gunshot wounds. In addition, authorities arrested 108 people, 71 of them being metropolitan area residents and 37 others from other regions.

Clashes were seen in several parts of Santiago, including in La Moneda, La Pincoya, San Bernardo, Puente Alto, and San Ramon, where municipality offices were looted. Supermarkets were also looted and several fires were set in different parts of the city.

Several groups gathered at different points of Santiago to begin Thursday's protests, which initiated without incident. Among the protesters were two Catholic priests holding signs that read 'Don't Loot.' A Trojan horse being carried by one of the protesters was set on fire. However, police began clashing with several so-called 'hooded' groups in different parts of the city.

While government officials said demonstrations only gathered crowds of around 50,000 people, Martinez said some 600,000 people protested throughout the city on Thursday. He later called on all the protesters to return to their homes, as they had fulfilled their actions by taking a big step into opening up to a new society and transform the current democracy which does not meet the people's demands.

'Hooded' groups clashed with National Police on Santiago's Alameda Avenue using sticks, rocks, and bottles as weapons. At around 2:30 p.m. local time, a group set fire at the National Gratitude Church, which dates back to 1915, burning its doors. Emergency teams arrived minutes later to put out the flames.

Also on Thursday afternoon, a group of people damaged a local McDonald's restaurant, trying to flee with food and placing graffiti on its walls.

Protest began Tuesday night when government reports said 35 people had been arrested and 11 were injured as a result of clashes between police officers and demonstrators.

During the first day of protests, Transport Minister Pedro Pablo Errazuriz said a total of 285 buses were damaged. In addition, 60 traffic lights were damaged and some bus drivers were reported injured. As a result, public transportation has been struggling to operate, while several streets and main avenues have been blocked.

Throughout August, Chilean students, along with teachers and other education workers, have been protesting for a fundamental change in the educational system, demanding an end to privatized education and asking for a government which can guarantee full access, quality and funding of public education at all its levels.

Hundreds have been arrested due to clashes and dozens of others, including civilians and police officers, have been injured.

Nonetheless, President Sebastian Pinera has criticized the protests, as Chile has had an 8.4 percent growth during the year's first semester, which has been the fastest in more than 15 years. Since he took office in January 2010, the country has averaged an annual growth of 6 percent.

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-- © BNO News All rights reserved 2011-08-26

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