UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The United Nations is sending a special mission to investigate human rights abuses in Chile, which is on strike after a week of street protests that killed 19 people.
President Sebastian Pinera has tried to ease tensions by announcing a near lifting of the state of emergency and easing night curfews, which have been in place for the past six days.
“Following the crisis in Chile since its inception, I have decided to send a verification mission to scrutinize allegations of human rights violations,” former UN chief Michelle Bachelet said in a tweet.
She added that “members of parliament and the government (Chilean) expressed their desire for a United Nations human rights mission.”
Social anger, embodied in violent demonstrations and looting, erupted after the announcement of a 3.75 percent increase in Santiago’s metro fees, but has not yet eased the suspension.
The movement, whose participants are diverse and have no clear leaders, has been fueled by resentment of the social situation and inequality in the country of 18 million people.
The president’s announcement of a series of social measures on Tuesday and his admission that he did not anticipate the crisis and his request for “forgiveness” from his own citizens appeared to have not led to the outcome he had hoped for.
A week after the start of the protest movement, about 20,000 military and police are still deployed in the country. The government on Wednesday summoned the army reserve for administrative tasks.
In an effort to reduce tensions, the conservative president said authorities were “working on a plan to normalize life in our country … so that we can stop the use of curfews and lift the state of emergency.”
Shortly after the announcement, the curfew imposed on Wednesday night was reduced to five hours from 22:00 to 04:00 (01:00 to 07:00 GMT), compared to 10 hours the previous night.
The government also reported a drop in violence in the last 24 hours, during which no one was killed. The number of those arrested was also reduced to 735.
But clashes with security forces and looting continued in a number of cities and parts of the capital, especially in the suburbs.
– “I will continue to pretend” –
Tens of thousands of Chileans, determined to keep up the pressure on the government, responded to a call for a second straight day on Thursday, launched by trade union organizations and about 20 other movements.
“The problems have never been solved over time and with all political parties, the same thing,” said Pamela Rosas, 26, who was in the center of the capital. “I have been here for three days and I will continue to demonstrate,” she said.
About 400,000 Chileans demonstrated on Wednesday, authorities said.
The protesters are demanding that the government withdraw its soldiers from the street after their deployment for the first time since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990). They are also demanding solutions to the country’s worst social crisis in 30 years.
According to official figures, 18 people, including a child, a Peruvian and an Ecuadorian, have been killed since 18 October. In contrast, the National Institute for Human Rights counted 535 wounded, 239 of whom were injured by firearms, and arrested 2,410 people.
Chilean Defense Minister Alberto Espina said on Thursday that the military was working to protect human rights in Chile, not to violate them.
Along with the UN mission, President Pinheira Bachelet and Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Department at the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch, invited him to visit Chile.
Bachelet’s father was arrested and tortured after opposing the Pinochet coup. He died in prison in 1974. She herself was tortured to leave the country.
Despite the severity of the crisis, the government confirmed Thursday that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jeping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump, will be held in Santiago on November 13-17.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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