SANTIAGO: Chile’s government met with opposition leaders Thursday in a fresh bid to end deadly protests that forced the country to abandon hosting two major economic and climate summits, but leftist parties poured scorn on the efforts.
The unrest started with protests against a rise in transport tickets and other austerity measures and descended into vandalism, looting, and clashes between demonstrators and police.
Protesters are angry about low salaries and pensions, poor public healthcare and education, and a yawning gap between rich and poor.
Pinera has reshuffled his government and announced a series of measures aimed at placating protesters.
But they have continued demanding that the right-wing billionaire president step down.
Protests erupted again on Thursday as thousands of Chileans wearing Halloween masks and alien costumes swarmed the Plaza Italia – the epicenter of the demonstrations – in response to a leaked recording of First Lady Cecilia Morel complaining the situation in the country was like an alien invasion.
Hundreds of other protesters marched along Santiago’s main avenue to the presidential palace, where they clashed with police, who fired tear gas and water trucks.
Earlier on Thursday, following two hours of talks at the presidential palace, the government failed to convince political rivals it has the will to make the necessary changes to appease protesters.
Socialist Party leader Alvaro Elizalde said the government “is not prepared to listen to the citizens’ demands.”
Heraldo Munoz, leader of the Party for Democracy, said he’d still not seen “clear signals in favor of dialogue.”
Earlier, Elizalde and other opposition leaders expressed support for proposals to reform the country’s 1980 constitution, which dates to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.