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Social organizations launch camp-in to protest Chilean gov't deafness

CHILE PROTESTS (ADDS VIDEO) | 10 de diciembre de 2019

Santiago, Dec 9 (efe-epa).- Representatives of different Chilean social organizations on Monday launched a camp-in protest in downtown Santiago to denounce the "deafness" of the government to the demands of the social uprising, which has been under way for two months and is the most serious to beset Chile since democracy was restored.

At least 24 people have died in the violence.

"At 53 days of an intense and extensive struggle by the entire Chilean people demanding justice and dignity, the deafness of the authorities forces up to maintain the mobilization and seek new ways to make ourselves heard," said the spokesman for the "No-AFP" National Workers Coordinator, Luis Mesina.

The camp set up by the demonstrators, consisting of about a dozen tents, was established in a public plaza located just a short distance from the Chilean president's residence between the seat of Congress in Santiago and the Supreme Court building.

"We don't accept the answers of the government and their spokespeople who say that they understand the public's demands, but only offer bonuses and temporary subsidies from the public coffers maintaining and deepening the enormous existing inequality in the country," the activist said.

Participating in the initiative are organizations including the so-called Social Unity Board, including organizations representing teachers, workers, tax professionals and more who are seeking to put an end to Chile's much-criticized private pension system.

"We want not only a Constitutional Assembly that is sovereign, partisan and plurinational, but also to be able to move forward on certain requirements that the public has having to do with the problems of pensions, dignified health and the end to student debt," Gabriela Farias, the leader of the FENPRUSS university health care workers federation, told EFE.

What began as a protest by Chilean students against the increase in metro fares on Oct. 18 quickly morphed into a general social uprising in which thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to call for a fairer economic model. Although the movement lacks identifiable leaders, the Social Unity Board has been attaining greater prominence within the protests ranks in recent days.

Representatives of that social grouping met two weeks ago with the Chilean government for the first time amid the crisis and discussed, among other things, the need to increase the minimum wage from the current 301,000 pesos ($374) to 550,000 pesos ($664) per month and change the pension system.

The marches, which began by attracting huge crowds, have been losing steam recently, although they continue to draw enough people to block the streets and there have been episodes of extreme violence. All this despite the fact that the government has announced timid social measures to try and quell the unrest and the historic accord among lawmakers to change the Constitution, which was inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

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