A 16-year-old Chilean boy died on Friday one day after he was shot in the chest near a security barricade in Santiago during massive protests against President Sebastian Pinera. Local media and witnesses have blamed police for the young man's death.
REUTERS - A Chilean teenager died early on Friday after being shot in the chest during massive protests in the capital against President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday, police said.
The government said the boy was 16 years old, calling the incident a tragedy. Local media said he was shot near a security barricade as protesters battled police in Santiago on Thursday, the second day of a two-day strike against unpopular Pinera marked by violent clashes and sporadic looting.
“The youth died from a bullet impact in the chest. He died in hospital,” a police spokesman said.
Local media said witnesses blamed police for firing the shots.
“The death of any citizen is a very serious situation,” said Rodrigo Ubilla, undersecretary at the Interior Ministry.
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.
The government said more than 1,300 people have been detained since Wednesday and several police officers were badly wounded two of them shot as violence flared when dozens of shops and supermarkets were looted and buses damaged.
Organizers said around 600,000 people joined Thursday’s protest across Chile. Reuters reporters estimated crowds in the capital alone at around 200,000 people.
Operations at some of the world’s biggest copper mines were not affected by the protests, which also seek to pressure the government into raising wages and revamping the constitution and tax system.
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.
Previous governments have faced one-day national strikes but this was the first 48-hour stoppage since the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. A recent poll showed Pinera as the least popular president since Pinochet’s rule.
Even a major cabinet reshuffle last month, the second since Pinera took power in March 2010, has failed to quell unrest.
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