SANTIAGO, (Reuters) – Protesters battled police in Chile’s capital yesterday, the second day of a two-day strike against unpopular President Sebastian Pinera that was marked by sporadic looting but had no impact on the vital mining sector.
Youths blocked roads, threw rocks and set fire to piles of trash at intersections in Santiago and other cities to block traffic. Police used water cannon and tear gas to defuse the latest rash of social unrest against conservative billionaire Pinera’s policies.
The government said hundreds of people had been detained since Wednesday and several police officers badly wounded — two of them shot — as violence flared overnight when dozens of shops and supermarkets were looted and buses damaged.
Led by students demanding free education, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent months to call for greater distribution of the income of a copper price boom in the world’s top producer of the metal.
Organizers said around 600,000 people had joined the protest across Chile, while Reuters reporters estimated crowds in the capital alone at around 200,000 people. The government gave no immediate estimate.