Santiago, Feb 25 (IANS) Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera has called on Chileans to unite in favour of a “major agreement for democracy, against violence and for peace,” amid ongoing social unrest.
“The cooperation of all Chileans of goodwill will contribute to healing the wounds and allowing Chile to resume the road to democracy, progress, justice and peace,” Pinera said on Monday, after returning from vacation and meeting with his cabinet.
The President called on lawmakers to work on passing a series of reforms aimed at meeting protesters’ demands, including raising the minimum wage., Xinhua news agency reported.
Pinera’s administration has also introduced bills to strengthen law and order, as well as allow the deployment of troops to shield critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, airports, power stations and potable water plants, during protests.
Demonstrations initially broke out in last October against a hike in subway fares in the capital Santiago, then spread across the country as Chileans expressed their discontent with the high cost of living, lack of public services and growing inequality.
Following months of often violent anti-government demonstrations, officials are bracing for another nationwide protest in March to continue pressing for better public services.
In response, Pinera’s administration has organized a plebiscite in April on whether or not to change the Constitution to better address the growing wealth gap in one of Latin America’s leading economies.
“Our government is going to guarantee this plebiscite, and it is also going to respect the decision that Chileans freely and independently make on April 26,” said Pinera.