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Demonstrations in Chile spread to upscale neighbourhoods in capital

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Demonstrations in Chile against the government of President Sebastian Pinera spread into Santiagos wealthiest neighbourhoods Wednesday, tainting previously untouched enclaves with violence amid the countrys deadly protests.

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Hundreds of demonstrators marched towards the Costanera Center, South Americas largest shopping mall and a complex that includes the regions tallest building—a symbol of the economic expansion that has made Chile one the regions most stable countries.

A phalanx of riot police stopped the demonstrators, firing water cannons and launching tear gas to disperse the crowds that gathered at the mall.

The demonstrations then spilled into the wealthy Providencia neighborhood, the hub of Chiles financial sector, where protesters lit fires, battled with police, looted a pharmacy and at least two banks, and damaged government buildings.

“We are living a level of violence and destruction never seen before,” said Providencia mayor Evelyn Matthei.

Social media messages also called for a rally at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, located in the upmarket Vitacura district.

“The time has come to get to the east,” said one message, indicating the upscale areas of the capital.

“People are rather sad and scared about how the country can return to normalcy,” said Andrea Ortega, a 43-year-old lawyer who left her office early to look after her children, fearing rioting in an area hitherto unscathed by the violence.

Separately in Renca, a working-class neighborhood in northern Santiago, a small crowd attacked a police station leaving five officers injured. And truckers and car drivers blocked highways protesting the increase in road tolls.

Nothing to hide

Demonstrations in Chile, which have already left 20 people dead, have become smaller but more violent in recent days.

At the same time, complaints about excessive force by police and soldiers have also been on the rise and include charges that police killed, tortured and sexually assaulted civilians during the weeks of protests.

Prosecutors say five of the 20 deaths recorded in the protests against high living costs were suspected to have been at the hands of security forces.

“We have been totally transparent about the figures because we have nothing to hide,” Pinera said Wednesday.

A UN human rights mission is investigating the police brutality allegations.

The Washington-based Inter-American Commission oRead More – Source

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