Chile protests: President to sack entire cabinet after more than one million people take to streets

Leader promises response to demonstrators' demands for better pay and services after week of unrest

Conrad Duncan
Sunday 27 October 2019 13:44
Police fire tear gas at thousands protesting in Chile

Chile's president Sebastian Pinera has asked all his cabinet members to resign and promised reforms as he attempts to restore control after a wave of mass protests.

The conservative leader has struggled to manage widespread unrest that has gripped his country this week amid anger over inequality.

At least 20 people have been killed since rioting broke out in response to a four per cent cent rise in subway fares earlier this month.

After 1.2 million people marched peacefully against the government in the capital Santiago yesterday, Mr Pinera said: “We have all heard the message. We have all changed.”

Protesters have been calling for improved pay, pensions, schools, housing and medical care, among other demands, with many arguing Chile's wealthy have grown richer while poorer people struggle.

Mr Pinera said he had put all his ministers "on notice" ahead of a cabinet reshuffle to "confront these new demands and take charge of the new times.” He did not say when he would appoint new ministers.

The president as also responded to the protests by raising pensions and the minimum wage, as well as revoking the subway fare hike.

A state of emergency that has covered much of the country for the past nine days could soon also be lifted.

Although protests have largely been peaceful, some demonstrations have erupted into rioting and looting and police have been accused of violently cracking down on demonstrators.

Earlier this week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said a team would be sent to Chile to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against protesters.

Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile, said “parliamentarians and the government have both expressed a desire for a UN Human Rights mission.”

The independent National Human Rights Institute has said that since the state of emergency went into effect, 3,162 people have been detained and 997 injured.

Politicians from both the ruling party and opposition have called for ministerial change to re-establish the government’s credibility.

Andres Chadwick, the interior minister who has overseen the police response to the protests, is among the most controversial cabinet members.

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In Santiago, one protester, Pablo Rodriquez, described Mr Pinera’s steps so far as “a good start” but insufficient.

Another Chilean, supermarket employee Yolanda Jerez, told the Associated Press that she supported the moves announced.

“The president's announcements are great because we are expecting changes and they have to start with something,” she said.

Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America but also the most unequal in the OECD group of high-income developed countries.

Additional reporting by AP

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