Thousands of people crowded the central Plaza Italia in Santiago de Chile on Friday, in the most massive protest that has been held since the beginning of the pandemic in March and two days after the first anniversary of the so-called "social outbreak."
In a festive atmosphere and with little police presence, the attendees chanted slogans such as "Chile woke up" and "The united people will never be defeated", while groups played "The right to live in peace", by the Chilean singer-songwriter Víctor Jara.
"Thank you, brave youth," read the sign carried by José Sarabia, 73, whose two children were injured by pellets during the marches last year.
This coming October 18 marks one year since the most serious revolts against the Government and economic inequality broke out in Chile since the end of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990), with thirty deaths and thousands of injuries. in addition to episodes of extreme violence, with looting and fires.
“We have been on the street for a year. The pandemic has weighed us down, but we continue. What we want is for there to be dignity for the people, "Juan José Rainao, leader of the Mapuche ethnic group, the largest in the country, told Efe.
Unlike the violent marches of the last two weeks, the rally passed peacefully until at least 20:30 p.m. local time, although there were some clashes with the forces around the square.
In red, "for the fallen"
The Carabineros police force is in the spotlight because of its harsh repression of the marches and various international organizations, such as the UN, have accused them of having committed human rights violations.
According to the Public Ministry, there are more than 4.600 open cases against the security forces, but only 75 agents have been charged.
“On Sunday a lot more people will go out and there will probably be a lot of violence in the towns. It is one of the concerns we have as a people, "added the young Gabriela Amaro.
In the early afternoon, several protesters painted completely red, in honor of the victims of police violence during the crisis, the monument to General Manuel Baquedano that presides over the roundabout, popularly baptized as "Plaza Dignidad." There, another group unfolded a large black cloth with the message "Piñera Out."
The statue of the hero of the Pacific War against Peru and Bolivia was restored during the pandemic, when the capital was in quarantine and there were no protests, after weeks full of flags and painted with anti-government emblems and in favor of a new Constitution.
"The red represents our fallen, who are many, those who are imprisoned, the mutilated and all human rights violations. That is why we are still here in the streets, ”the hooded young Enzo explained to Efe.
Where there were more serious excesses, with barricades and the launching of tear gas by the security forces, was in the coastal cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, 110 kilometers from the capital.
The concentrations this Friday are held less than ten days before more than 14,5 million Chileans decide in a historic plebiscite if they want to replace the current Constitution, inherited from the dictatorship and seen as the origin of the inequalities that afflict the country for giving a secondary role to the State in the provision of basic services. / EFE