Over a million people demand Chile president's resignation
584 people have been injured and 2,410 detained during the protestsEuropost
More than one million people took to the streets in Chile Friday for the largest protests in a week of deadly demonstrations demanding economic reforms and the resignation of President Sebastian Pinera.
Demonstrators carrying indigenous and national flags sang popular resistance songs from the 1973-90 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship era as the country, usually seen as one of the most stable in Latin America, grapples with its worst violence in decades.
In response, Pinera said he had "heard the message" in a post on Twitter, characterising the protests in a positive light and as a means towards change. Meanwhile, Santiago's governor Karla Rubilar described it as "a historic day" on Twitter, praising "a peaceful march... representing the dream of a new Chile."
"We have all heard the message. We have all changed. With unity and help from God, we will travel the road towards a Chile that is better for all," he said.
For the past week, Chileans' pent-up anger has spilled over in the form of protests against a socio-economic structure that many feel has left them by the wayside, with low wages and pensions, costly health care and education, and a big gap between rich and poor. In an initial burst of violence, metro stations were destroyed, supermarkets torched and looted, traffic lights and bus shelters smashed, and countless street barricades erected and set alight.
Authorities then deployed some 20,000 police and soldiers in Santiago, using tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators. Security forces have been blamed for five of the 19 protest-related deaths since . Social media has lit up with accusations of torture and abuse.
In response, Pinera apologised earlier in the week for failing to anticipate the outbreak of social unrest and announced a raft of measures designed to placate people, such as increases in minimum pensions and wages. He also announced a plan to end a deeply unpopular state of emergency and to lift a nighttime curfew, although both of those are now into their seventh day.
On Friday he called on legislators to "urgently approve these projects rather than arguing and debating so much."
But the violence has still been the worst since Chile returned to democracy after Pinochet's right-wing dictatorship. And the protests show no sign of abating. As demonstrators passed by the presidential palace in central Santiago, they hurled insults at Pinera and the military. Regular media has also found itself a target of protesters' ire with the distribution of leaflets calling for people not to turn on their televisions.
Earlier on Friday, cars and trucks took part in a protest against highway tolls, moving at snail's pace as they clogged autoroutes and formed long caravans on roads leading out of the capital city.
Still, the government said that next month's APEC trade summit in Santiago would go ahead despite the protests. US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are among those expected to attend the November 16-17 meeting to discuss ending their trade war.