Millennium Post

New clashes as embattled Chile President reshuffles cabinet

Santiago: Trending Chilean protesters clashed with security forces on Monday, several hours after embattled President Sebastian Pinera announced a cabinet reshuffle in his latest bid to end 10 days of street demonstrations.

At least 20 people have died in a wave of protests against social and economic inequality ahead of the latest violence in Santiago and, according to local media, the cities of Valparaiso and Concepcion.

"Chile has changed and the government too has to change to confront these new challenges in these new times," said Pinera, who replaced a third of his cabinet, including highly unpopular Interior Minister Andres Chadwick.

Protesters have been demanding Pinera's resignation as anger over low wages and pensions, expensive health and education, and a growing gap between rich and poor fueled the country's worst civil unrest in decades.

Clashes between protesters and police later took place in central Santiago, not far from the presidential palace, as a peaceful rally of several thousand people gradually gave way to violence.

Some shops were looted, and a fire tore through a building housing a shopping center, several shops and a hotel, recalling the violence that erupted in the early days of the protests that broke out on October 18.

Workers at Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, will start a 24-hour strike from Tuesday in support of the protests, a mining union said in a statement.

A week-long state of emergency that had seen 20,000 police and soldiers deployed on the streets ended at midnight going into Monday.

On Saturday, Pinera canceled nighttime curfews that had begun a day after violent protests broke out.

Finance Minister Felipe Larrain, who was among the axed cabinet members, came under fire last month for recommending that "romantics" buy flowers, after announcing that inflation hadn't risen and they were even cheaper.

Also on the way out was Economy Minister Andres Fontaine, who fell afoul of public opinion when he advised disgruntled workers to "get up earlier" to avoid an increase in peak hour metro prices.

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