Protests Sour Piñera Administration’s Half-Time Celebration

SANTIAGO – President Sebastián Piñera headed a ceremony commemorating 30 years of democracy and the start of the second half of his mandate. But street protests provided an antidote to the celebrations. About 150 schools mobilized and joined the country-wide protests.

Clashes between secondary students and police erupted around government palace La Moneda. The students led the protests on Mar. 11 after the secondary students assembly (ACES) called for interruptions on the two-year anniversary of President Sebastián Piñera’s inauguration.

The first disturbances occurred in front of the popular National Institute school, resulting in seven detained, five of them underage. Later, around 100 protesters erected barricades in Santiago’s main artery, the Alameda (or Bernardo O’Higgins avenue), causing car traffic and massive public transport disruptions and closures of metro stations.

At ‘Ground Zero’ of the social uprising, Plaza Italia (also known as Plaza de la Dignidad), protesters remained present throughout the day. Gustavo Gatica, a student who was blinded by police during a protest, returned to the plaza, where he was frenetically greeted.

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Protest Tally

The day ended with 478 detained, 237 in the Metropolitan region and 241 in other parts, according to the Carabineros police force. Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel said the government will prosecute individuals under the anti-looting law.

According to ACES, 150 schools mobilized against Piñera while students barricaded over 30 public schools. ACES said, “this number will go up as the week progresses and throughout March.”

The Education Ministry said “Some violent events occurred…[but] most educational establishments in the country have been functioning normal.”

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