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13-year-old boy killed as fifth week of violence begins in Chile

23 people have now been killed during weeks of unrest in the country.

chile-protests A petrol bomb explodes near a police officer during clashes with anti-government protesters in Santiago Source: AP/PA Images

A 13-YEAR-OLD boy has become the latest victim of violent unrest in Chile as the country enters its fifth week of protests.

23 people have now been killed during weeks of looting and demonstrations across the South American nation.

Furious Chileans have been protesting against social and economic inequality since 18 October, and against an entrenched political elite that comes from a small number of the wealthiest families in the country.

The crisis is the worst in three decades of Chilean democracy and has led to around 2,000 injuries, including some 280 people who have suffered eye damage from shotgun pellets.

Not even an agreement on a political roadmap that will see Chile draft a new constitution has been able to defuse tensions or stop the bloodshed.

The 13-year-old boy who died yesterday was run over by a van during protests in Arica, about 2,100km north of the capital Santiago, an interior ministry official said.

Thousands of people gathered again on Friday in Plaza Italia, the centre of the demonstrations in Santiago and the site of weekly rallies that have seen massive turnout since the social upheaval broke out.

“We cannot ease up. We have to keep expressing ourselves because we have not achieved anything, because the repression continues and also [the government] keeps signing fake agreements, like the peace deal,” Claudia Ortolani, a young protester, said.

Nearby, hooded men squared off against police, who broke up the crowd with tear gas and water cannons.

Meanwhile, about a hundred people protested outside the Costanera Centre, the largest mall in South America, as around twenty riot police guarded the entrance to the building.

chile-protests An anti-government demonstrator clashes with a police-armoured vehicle spewing tear gas in Santiago Source: AP/PA Images

Violence rages

While protests earlier in the week had not been huge, outbursts of violence multiplied in the capital’s metro area on Thursday and Friday.

The anger in the streets had eased after last week’s agreement by Congress to draft a new constitution.

But with people back on the streets in force again, President Sebastian Pinera’s government appealed for calm once more.

Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel issued a “deep and sincere call to all political forces” to end the unrest.

But in Quilicura, north of Santiago, a shopping centre was set on fire and looted by a crowd while in Puente Alto, another working-class area, a petrol station, a police headquarters and businesses were attacked.

In the northern city of Antofagasta, a motorist injured five people when he ran down protesters, while a supermarket was ransacked.

Looting, barricades and fires were also recorded in the port of Valparaiso and the city of Vina del Mar, and in Concepcion in the south.

“This situation … affects our offer to take charge,” said police general Enrique Basseletti, after complaints from people irate that they had not seen police on their streets.

On Thursday, authorities arrested 700 people in the unrest. That followed the police decision to suspend the use of birdshot against protesters, following an outcry over eye injury victims.

- © AFP 2019

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