SANTIAGO – At least three buses were set on fire by hooded arsonists while groups of demonstrators blocked streets with burning barricades in Santiago and other Chilean cities at the start of a nationwide strike against the private pensions system.
Millions of people had problems getting to work and to their other daily activities in the Chilean capital, since the Metro had to temporarily suspend some of its services because of junk thrown on the tracks, while bus transport was scant because several drivers’ unions joined in the strike.
The protest was called by the No+AFP Coordinator, which previously organized three marches that had hundreds of thousands of people around the country demanding an end to the Private Pensions System, which, based on individual capitalization of a retirement fund, was imposed in 1981 by the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
At present, 90.75 percent of retirees on the system receive pensions of less than 154,304 pesos ($233) a month, almost half the minimum wage established in the South American country, according to a report published by the Sol Foundation.
Strike organizers asked parents not to take their children to school and not to go shopping or engage in any negotiations in order to shut down the nation’s institutions as much as possible.
A number of organizations joined in the strike to demand a structural change in the pensions system, including the civil servants unions, already striking for better wages, and the “Chile Better Off Without TPP” protesters.
Besides Santiago, demonstrations were also underway in other Chilean cities including Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Concepcion, Temuco and Valdivia.
“Every citizen has the right to peaceful protest, but any alteration of public order will be judged according to the law,” Interior Minister Mario Fernandez said on Cooperativa radio.
Fernandez said that three buses were burned in Santiago, but added that the cases are being investigated to see if they had all been attacked or if some were the result of some mechanical or electrical failure.
The minister said he was confident there would be fewer such incidents as the day progressed, during which protests in public places are planned for noon this Friday, followed by a nationwide banging of pots and pans during the night.