SANTIAGO, (Reuters) – A Chilean teenager died early yesterday a day after being shot following massive protests in the capital against President Sebastian Pinera, police said, the first fatality in months of social unrest.
Police identified the youth as 14-year-old Manuel Gutierrez. Local media said he was shot in the chest near a security barricade as protesters battled police overnight in Santiago, in the aftermath of a 48-hour strike against unpopular Pinera marked by violent clashes and sporadic looting.
Local radio said witnesses blamed police for firing the shots during the incident in a pocket of night-time unrest in a modest neighborhood in the south of the capital. Police denied officers were to blame, saying they had not used fire arms.
“The death of any citizen is a very serious situation,” said Rodrigo Ubilla, undersecretary at the Interior Ministry. “We should all be sad today because we have not been able to move forward peacefully.”
“The solutions to big problems in this country do not lie in throwing stones, bombs and attacking people; the solution lies in talking,” he added. Ubilla put the youth’s age at 16.
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.
On Thursday, 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 social unrest against conservative billionaire Pinera’s policies.
While Latin America’s model economy is seen expanding 6.6 percent this year and is an investor magnet thanks to prudent fiscal and monetary policies, many ordinary Chileans feel they are not sharing in the economic miracle.
Investors, long used to economic stability, are weighing risk, although markets have taken the protests in stride.