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Chileans claim vases gather in Santiago to mark 2019 anniversary of protests




SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Thousands of Chileans gathered in the capital’s central square, Santiago, on Sunday, beating pots, shouting and cheering to mark an anniversary of mass inequality protests that left more than 30 dead and thousands injured. .

Protesters gathered early in the day in mostly peaceful rallies in downtown under the bright, cloudless South Hemisphere fountain. Lots of brightly colored signs and banners calling for a vote next Sunday in a referendum on whether to remove the dictatorship-era Constitution, a key demand of the 2019 protests.

Demonstrations in recent years, which began last October 18, lasted until mid-December as Chileans rallied across the country to call for reforms in the pension, health care and education systems. Riots, riots and looting resulted in the army taking to the streets for the first time since the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

By late Sunday afternoon, Santiago Plaza Italia had begun to fill but the protest was significantly smaller and more peaceful than the largest rallies of recent years. Chilean police, who have been criticized by human rights groups for their harsh response to the 2019 demonstrations, could be seen looking from the edges of the square.

Local media reported incidents of violence, vandalism and clashes with protesters throughout the day, but police response remained largely calm.

In recent days, small-scale protests and isolated incidents of violence have resurfaced in Chile, as the capital 6 million citizens come out of jail months after the coronavirus pandemic. Most of the protesters on Sunday wore masks, but many of them could be seen in close groups, raising concerns about a potential health risk.

Center-right President Sebastian Pinera, whose popularity has plummeted after the 2019 protests, met with members of his cabinet and security advisers early in the day but was not expected to speak.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood in Santiago; Edited by Matthew Lewis

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