Santiago, Oct 27 (IANS) Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has sacked his entire and an end to the state of emergency in the country amid the anti-government protests that have claimed the lives of 19 people since it began on october 18.
On Saturday, Pinera said that he “heard the profound message from citizens, from the Chilean men and women asking for and demanding a more just society” during the march on Friday, which mobilized around 1.2 million people in Santiago alone, the largest popular mobilization in Chile since the end of the Pinochet dictatorship in 1990, reports Efe news.
“I’ve asked all of the Ministers to resign in order to create a new cabinet to confront these new demands,” he said from the La Moneda presidential palace.
Justice Minister Hernan Larrain said: “We are all at the disposal of the President and as ministers we have told him to have our posts so that he can structure with those he deems fit.”
Labor Minister Nicolas Monckeberg noted that Chile had “changed” over the past week and hoped that these changes were positive.
The opposition acknowledged that Pinera had decided to renew his Cabinet, although it called for wider changes, such as a new Constitution.
“This Cabinet was already worn out. It must have a Cabinet with new ideas, with changes (and that) summon a new Constitution,” said Senator Guido Girardi of the progressive Party for Democracy.
Left-leaning Social Convergence party lawmaker Gabriel Boric stressed that the public had been calling for deeper structural reforms, and advocated a referendum as the best way to achieve a new Constitution.
The President also denounced the “brutal and destructive violence” perpetrated by some opponents of the government and defended his decision to declare a state of emergency and deploy the army.
Pinera intends to lift the state of emergency around the country from Sunday midnight.
His statement followed announcements by the military commanders administering the state of emergency in Santiago, Coquimbo, La Serena and Concepcion that no curfews would be in effect in those jurisdictions on Saturday.
On Saturday, five Santiago metro lines and almost all of the bus service reopened. Although many large supermarkets were closed, restaurants and shops reopened and the atmosphere returned to normal in the streets.
As evening approached, demonstrations began again in the Plaza Italia and other places, although not as big as those over the past week.
Incidents arising from the demonstrations have left at least 19 dead, including five people allegedly killed by police and soldiers, while 582 others have suffered injuries, more than half of them from the impact of rubber bullets or tear-gas canisters.
The National Human Rights Institute (NHRI), an autonomous public agency that monitors the actions of security forces, put the number of arrests at 2,840 and said that it has verified reports of torture and other abuses by police and soldiers.
The NHRI has so far filed 70 complaints: 15 for sexual violence, five for homicides, 50 for torture, and others for cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. It has asked the government to clarify the number of deaths.
A UN mission will arrive in Chile next week to investigate possible human rights violations during the protests.
Long-simmering discontent over growing economic inequality boiled over last week after the Santiago metro raised fares to the equivalent of more than $1 a ride, a level that could have forced minimum-wage workers to spend up to a quarter of their monthly income on transportation.
Though Pinera moved quickly to rescind the fare increase, the protests continued, driven by anger over low pensions and salaries and the high cost of electricity, gas, university education and health care.