Students clashed with riot police in the capital of Chile, Santiago, during protests that marked the second anniversary of Conservative President Sebastian Pinera taking office on Wednesday.
The protests coincided with the 30th anniversary of Chile’s return to democracy after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990.
At a ceremony in Santiago, Pinera said that 30 years of democratic rule in Chile had been a “fertile” period that had lifted eight million Chileans from poverty.
But he also recognized the gaps and inequalities that hurt “the soul of our nation”.
“We have not taken sufficient account of the fears and shortcomings of our middle class. We have not made sufficient progress towards full equality between men and women. We have not fought with sufficient will against abuse and the privileges of others, “said Pinera. .
Fueled by indignation against Pinera and the Chilean elite which controls most of the country’s wealth, the South American nation has experienced its worst social unrest since October since the transition to democracy in 1990.
Thirty people were killed during the protests, most of them following brutal police intervention condemned as repressive by UN investigators. Thousands of people were injured.
The main objective of the ongoing protests is to put pressure on Pinera to extend the social reforms he has already proposed.
Wednesday’s worst disturbances occurred outside the National Institute’s historic school in central Santiago, a few blocks from the Presidential Palace, where police fired tear gas and cannons to disperse students throwing stones.
The protest escalated in the afternoon, when other protesters joined the students.
“Before, we protested in Plaza Italia, and now we are here,” said Rodrigo Lagos, a teacher, referring to the place where most of the protests started.
“If (Pinera) does not leave the easy route, he will have to leave the difficult route,” added the 46-year-old.
The clashes disrupted traffic in central Santiago for several hours.
Similar incidents occurred elsewhere in the capital, as protesters answered calls from social media to protest against Pinera.
Several metro stations were closed due to the violence and some transportation routes to the south of the city were suspended.