Protests in Chile Spread Into Wealthy Santiago Neighborhoods

Chilean riot police faced off against anti-government demonstrators protesting in one of Santiago’s wealthiest neighborhoods (AFP Photo/JAVIER TORRES)

Demonstrations in Chile against the government of President Sebastian Pinera spread into Santiago’s wealthiest neighborhoods Wednesday, tainting previously untouched enclaves with violence amid the country’s deadly protests.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched towards the Costanera Center, South America’s largest shopping mall and a complex that includes the region’s tallest building — a symbol of the economic expansion that has made Chile one the region’s most stable countries.

A phalanx of riot police stopped the demonstrators, firing water cannons and launching tear gas to disperse the crowds that gathered at the mall.

The demonstrations then spilled into the wealthy Providencia neighborhood, the hub of Chile’s financial sector, where protesters lit fires, battled with police, looted a pharmacy and at least two banks, and damaged government buildings.

“We are living a level of violence and destruction never seen before,” said Providencia mayor Evelyn Matthei.

Social media messages also called for a rally at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, located in the upmarket Vitacura district.

“The time has come to get to the east,” said one message, indicating the upscale areas of the capital.

“People are rather sad and scared about how the country can return to normalcy,” said Andrea Ortega, a 43-year-old lawyer who left her office early to look after her children, fearing rioting in an area hitherto unscathed by the violence.

Separately in Renca, a working-class neighborhood in northern Santiago, a small crowd attacked a police station leaving five officers injured. And truckers and car drivers blocked highways protesting the increase in road tolls.

– ‘Nothing to hide’ –

Demonstrations in Chile, which have already left 20 people dead, have been growing smaller but more violent in recent days.

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SOURCE: Yahoo News / AFP – Paulina Abramovich