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Chile’s Protesters Take Fight to the Rich in Uptown ‘San-hattan’

By Reuters 6 November 2019
Caption
Protesters face the police on the sixth day of protests against the Government, in Santiago, Chile, 23 October 2019. (EPA-EFE/FERNANDO BIZERRA JR)

Chile’s protest movement moved uptown Wednesday, with running skirmishes between the police and demonstrators in part of the financial district around the country’s biggest mall.

(Bloomberg) —

 

Looking to deliver a social-justice message more directly to the corporate occupants of the city’s glass-faced skyscrapers in the district dubbed as “San-hattan,” protesters moved away from central Santiago, the scene of countless confrontations over the past three weeks.

”I came here because it’s an iconic place for the whole economic model,” said Gonzalo Campos, an intern, as he banged a saucepan on the street. “This is where all the posh people live and there are never demonstrations here. They have to learn how much discontent there is and the only way is to come here and protest in their faces.”

In the streets around him a few hundred demonstrators played cat and mouse with police who deployed water cannons and tear gas to move them on. Protesters quickly picked up the tear gas canisters and threw them in the San Carlos canal that runs through the neighborhood.

Towering over the protest was Latin America’s tallest building, a symbol of Chile’s modernity and progress that sits on top of the Costanera Center shopping mall. On Tuesday, welders had installed barbed wire and metallic shutters around the mall.

Workers in the nearby offices and buildings sites had left early and tried to make their way home through the tear gas on the streets. Some local residents clapped the protesters from their window.

The march is the latest chapter in Chile’s biggest spate of civil unrest since the country returned to democracy in 1990. A plethora of groups from students to unions are pushing for improvements to wages, pensions, health care, education and transport, as well as a new constitution. So far, social concessions granted by the center-right government of President Sebastian Pinera have failed to appease them.

“There isn’t one single struggle,” said Javier Pino, a student at the University of Santiago in the protest. “There is population-wide discontent about the low wages and the high cost of living.”

Pinera, a billionaire investor turned politician who has a family office near today’s protest, has himself become a focus of demonstrators, with many calling for his resignation amid accusations of human rights abuses by security forces.

For more on the human cost of the protests, click here

The president has vowed to stay in office.

–With assistance from Eduardo Thomson and Sebastian Boyd.

To contact the reporters on this story:
James Attwood in Santiago at [email protected];
Laura Millan Lombrana in Santiago at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Daniel Cancel at [email protected]

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