Social tension reignites in Chile on the eve of the constitutional referendum | International

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The commemoration of the first year of the social outbreak in Chile ended on Sunday with one death, 580 detainees and 107 serious events of violence in different areas of the country, according to the Government of Sebastián Piñera on Monday. At least 30,000 people returned to the streets in the Plaza Italia area, the epicenter of the protests in the capital, one week before the constitutional plebiscite of October 25, the most important electoral process in the last three decades.

The undersecretary of the Interior, Juan Francisco Galli, distinguished between the protesters who exercised their "legitimate right to assembly" and those who produced "serious violent actions" in the vicinity. They burned two churches, there were confrontations between brave football clubs, looting in shops –including a famous hotel–, and confrontations with Carabineros. The central neighborhood of Santiago once again seemed like a war zone this Monday.

"We hope that these violent activists will let the country express itself," said Patricio Santamaría, president of the executive council of the Electoral Service (SERVEL), about Sunday's plebiscite. More than 14 million people are called to the polls voluntarily to decide whether to approve or reject the idea of ​​changing the current Constitution of 1980, drafted by the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, which has undergone fifty reforms in the last three decades , in democracy. Citizens will be asked, in turn, who should draft it: a constitutional convention made up of 155 citizens specially elected for that purpose or a mixed convention of 172 members, made up equally of parliamentarians.

Confidence crisis

Sunday's plebiscite will take place amid a strong crisis of confidence in democratic institutions, such as Congress, the parties and the Government. The protest emerges outside of traditional structures. A sample of this disaffection took place this Sunday in the same area of ​​Plaza Italia, when the mayor of the capital's commune of Recoleta, the communist Daniel Jadue, was insulted and threatened. He is the best positioned left and center-left opposition figure ahead of the 2021 presidential election.

After the incidents in the center of Santiago de Chile, violent events were recorded in different areas of the city and the country. Barricades and looting and attempted looting, according to the undersecretary of the Interior. It was in one of the historic towns of the capital, La Victoria, in the commune of Pedro Aguirre Cerda, where a person died, as confirmed by Carabineros. According to General Ricardo Yáñez, national director of Order and Security of the institution, a police station in the area was attacked "with firearms and incendiary elements," with injured police officers. When a police vehicle was going to help them, it was attacked "with incendiary elements and firearms," ​​said the general, and there was "an exchange of fire." "In the surroundings a person is noticed who arrives dead at the hospital," added General Yañez, about a fact that is being investigated.

"Carabineros had to defend themselves from the acts of violence and, therefore, we are very calm awaiting the investigations carried out by both the Prosecutor's Office, as well as the specialized police forces," Interior Minister Víctor Pérez said Monday.

The police institution reaches the anniversary of the social uprisings and the plebiscite plunged into a serious loss of prestige, especially due to the abuses committed in the framework of the uprisings that broke out a year ago. For the director general of the Carabineros, Mario Rozas, who met last night in La Moneda with the president and his political ministers, "it has become clear who the criminals are, who the vandals are." It reported that about 44,000 carabinieri were deployed throughout the country on Sunday.

There were attacks on eight police barracks both in Santiago and in other cities, according to the Carabineros. In the southern part of the capital, in Puente Alto, a group of at least 300 hooded men attacked a sub-police station. They threw Molotov cocktails and other blunt items. In another Santiago commune, Padre Hurtado, protesters attacked the police station. In Coquimbo, some 500 kilometers north of the capital, a group attacked police and set up barricades, according to the institution, which reported 106 injured officials.

The burned religious enclosures are in the Plaza Italia area: the San Francisco de Borja Carabineros chapel, which has been continuously attacked in recent months, and the Asunción parish, a building built in 1876, of patrimonial value, whose bell tower collapsed by the flames, while groups of young people celebrated. In social networks circulates the image of a girl boasting of the destruction inside the temple. “Enough, enough violence. Let's not justify the unjustifiable ”, said the Archbishop of Santiago, Monsignor Celestino Aós last night.

Mostly young people came to the Plaza Italia area on Sunday, but also families and people of all ages, including children and the elderly. There were batucadas, comparsas of feminist collectives –which have been the spearhead of the movement–, Mapuche and Chilean flags, live music, among other demonstrations. The thousands of citizens who took to the streets defied the measures in force due to the pandemic, which prevent meetings in public spaces of more than 50 people. In Chile, there are currently 14,183 active cases, in a health crisis that has left 13,635 deaths, considering only confirmed cases. The first wave is not yet controlled in the South American country: 1,759 new cases of covid-19 were reported on Sunday.

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