VIÑA DEL MAR, Chile – Protests by inhabitants of an illegal settlement has forced a delay in the traditional closing event of the Viña del Mar Song Festival, in which the winner of the beauty contest bathes in the swimming pool at the Hotel O’Higgins.
“We’re here trying to get compliance with the agreement we signed in 2015 with the Viña del Mar City Hall to have water and electricity installed. They set a limit of 45 days and here we are in 2017 and nothing has been done,” said Manuel Torres, spokesman for the Felipe Camiroaga camp, located on the hills around the city.
After more than an hour of protests that kept delaying the traditional closing event, Sergio Maraboli, editor of the daily La Cuarta that organized the festival, decided to suspend the swimming pool act by this year’s beauty queen, Kika Silva, for “security reasons.”
Police moved against the demonstrators and arrested four of them, which sparked complaints from more than 100 people living in the illegal settlement and who gathered around the hotel in protest.
“We’re suffering disproportionate violence from the Carabinero police. Yesterday we demonstrated around the Viña del Mar Festival and they injured two of our leaders, in fact one got a fractured nose. And today they’re arresting us,” Torres said.
The illegal settlement’s spokesman said it wasn’t his wish to suspend the beauty queen’s swimming pool act, but rather to raise awareness of their situation, and asked the city’s Mayor Virginia Reginato to meet with them to find a solution to the conflict.
“We ask that we sit around a table and talk. We are 900 families living in the worst possible conditions, in an urban settlement that doesn’t have the most basic sanitary services. The electricity we have is because we tapped into the local system,” Torres said.
Meanwhile, police told EFE they arrested four demonstrators for “throwing blunt objects inside the Hotel O’Higgins,” and said an investigation would be launched to clear up the situation.
The swimming pool act, which is beauty queen Kika Silva’s moment of glory and will draw the curtain on the 2017 Viña del Mar Song Festival, was postponed until Sunday.