One million Chileans join fight against inequality

Updated: Oct 27, 2019, 09:31 IST | Agencies | Santiago

Touted to be the largest since 1990, protests were triggered by a subway fare hike

Demonstrators gather in Santiago. Pic/AFP
Demonstrators gather in Santiago. Pic/AFP

Santiago: More than 1 million people participated in a mass rally here, deemed as the largest since the 1990 fall of dictator Augusto Pinochet, against the Chilean government's austerity policies.

A week after the start of demonstrations that have witnessed the death of 19 people, the capital's Plaza Italia square on Friday overflowed as thousands more stood on neighbouring streets.

The demonstration was set to start at 5 pm and within an hour, the crowd had swelled to more than a million, according to the municipal government. Some in the rally held up a giant banner reading "Chile wake up," a phrase that has become the unofficial motto of the movement demanding the resignation of the country's President Sebastian Pinera.

The widespread unrest began on October 18 with a student protest in Santiago over a since-cancelled subway fare hike. Protests escalated into violent incidents that have left 19 dead—some killed by police and soldiers deployed after the government declared a state of emergency, imposed curfews in several cities and put the military in charge of public order.

During the protests, Chileans also expressed their anger over low pensions, salaries and the high price of electricity, gas, university education and healthcare. Chile's Congress was evacuated earlier on Friday after demonstrators caused disturbances.

The speaker of the lower house, Ivan Flores, ordered the suspension of the legislative session after a group of protesters gathered outside the building and unsuccessfully tried to force their way past members of the Carabineros, Chile's militarised national police. A UN mission will travel to Chile next week to investigate possible human rights violations.

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