SANTIAGO – A protest coinciding with President Sebastian Piñera’s state of the union address to the Chilean Congress was followed by violent clashes that left two police injured and dozens of people in custody.
The disturbances in the port city of Valparaiso, where Congress meets, came at the end of a peaceful demonstration organized by the CUT labor federation, as around 300 hooded militants vandalized property and engaged in running battles with police.
The hooded protesters accosted two plainclothes police officers detected in the crowd, badly beating one of them, according to authorities.
The militants also destroyed security cameras and traffic lights near Congress.
Elite units protecting the legislature endured 80 minutes of rock-throwing by the protesters before resorting to tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd, police Gen. Richard Quezada told reporters.
Though convened by the CUT to demand an increase in the minimum wage to the equivalent of $500 a month, the demonstration also drew support from students and educators unhappy with a highly stratified education system that funnels state subsidies to private, for-profit institutions.
Piñera, a right-wing billionaire, currently has an approval rating of 24 percent.
“If necessary, we must kill the President,” read the slogan on one banner seen during the march in Valparaiso. EFE