Fresh clashes have erupted between the Chilean police and demonstrators protesting against economic inequality as mass rallies continue across the Latin American country.
On Friday, small groups of rock-throwing demonstrators clashed with the riot police, who responded by firing tear gas to disperse the crowd in the capital city of Santiago.
The police also brought out water cannons in an effort to clear out thousands of demonstrators from the central Plaza Italia square, which has been the epicenter of the protest movement these last two weeks. The protesters were waving Chilean and Mapuche indigenous flags.
In one of the rallies, around a thousand women – dressed in black, marching silently and raising one fist – demanded justice for those killed and injured during the last two weeks of social unrest in the country.
Their march started off a day of demonstrations that expanded later as tens of thousands of people answered social media calls to match last Friday’s huge protest that attracted more than a million people.
“Justice; truth; no to impunity,” chanted the women marchers in front of the presidential palace in central Santiago, as their silent protest burst to life.
They held up signs paying tribute to the 20 people killed and more than 1,300 injured during the protests, according to statistics provided by the national human rights institute (INDH.)
Protesters stood in silence holding one fist aloft in front of impassive police guarding the presidential palace on a day in which many were celebrating the Christian festival of All Saints Day.
“We’re not going to back down until the government answers us about the deaths. We feel betrayed by this government,” Marco, a 22-year-old student, told AFP.
Protesters are angry about low salaries and pensions, poor public healthcare and education, and a yawning gap between rich and poor in Latin America’s wealthiest country on a per capita basis.
The unrest began two weeks ago with protests against a rise in transport tickets and other austerity measures descended into vandalism, looting, and clashes between demonstrators and police.
Many protesters have demanded the resignation of billionaire President Sebastian Pinera.
He has announced a series of social measures and a cabinet reshuffle to try to appease the demonstrators, but to no avail.
Chile’s image took a hit on Wednesday when the government said it was pulling out of hosting the APEC economic summit in November and the December COP climate conference.
It said it had no choice but to abandon the summits for security reasons.
Tourism industry hit by violent protests
The country’s tourism industry is also feeling the pinch amid the violent protests, with hotels reservations down by half and many cancelling trips after the country pulled out of hosting two major summits.
The hit underscores the wider impact of the chaos that has gripped the South American nation for almost two weeks, since protests against metro fare hikes sparked off riots that have seen building and buses burned and millions take to the streets.
“The losses are enormous,” said Ivan Marambio an administrator at the Pincipado chain of hotels in Santiago.
“With us here in the Plaza Italia area, since Oct. 19 there have been practically no guests. All the hotels are empty, or at least without any guests,” he added.
The costs for tourism-related businesses more widely have spiraled as the protests have grown.