Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in parts of Chile’s capital on Wednesday as a two-day national strike began against unpopular President Sebastian Pinera, but mining in the world’s top copper producer was not disrupted.
The strike, called by Chile’s main umbrella labor union CUT and coming on the heels of huge demonstrations by students demanding free education, got off to a slow start and the government said 95 percent of public workers ignored the call.
Protesters have clashed with police in recent weeks as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to rail against conservative billionaire Pinera and demand greater trickle down of wealth spurred by a copper price boom.
Public transportation was running and banks were open. While some miners said they supported the strike, operations at some of the world’s biggest copper mines were not affected. But pockets of protest erupted across the capital and in Chile’s main cities.
Stone-throwing protesters clashed with police in full riot gear who responded with water cannon and tear gas in several Chilean cities, and police said dozens of protesters had been detained.
However, most of the protests were peaceful, with groups banging pots and pans in front of the Santiago municipality in a cacerolazo, a traditional form of protest in Latin America.
“In Cuba I can study for free, but in Chile..?” read one placard held aloft on a pedestrian avenue in downtown Santiago, as protesters waved Chilean red, white and blue flags, danced and blew whistles.
When do we do the same? And notice this story, despite water cannons and tear gas, has not made the news (Google News has only about 165 stories on the topic, none from major US media). The Chileans, at least, understand the “machine” of their economy is broken, needs repairs, and are willing to demand change. Here? Well Steve Jobs resigned, did you hear? Hurricane Irene is threatening the Eastern Seaboard. Oh, and Kimmy (Kardashian) is talking about a second wedding, this time in NYC …