Santiago, Oct 25 (AFP/APP): The United Nations said Thursday it would send a special mission to investigate human rights abuses in Chile, where a general strike went into its second day following a week of street protests that left 18 dead.
President Sebastian Pinera tried to ease tensions by announcing a plan to end a highly unpopular state of emergency and nighttime curfews.
“Having monitored the crisis in Chile since it began, I have decided to send a verification mission to examine the allegations of human rights violations,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet said in a tweet.
The protests erupted on Friday, initially against a metro fare hike but spiraled into general discontent at low salaries and pensions, high costs of health care and education, and a yawning gap between rich and poor.
While much of it has been peaceful, metro stations were destroyed, supermarkets torched and looted, traffic lights and bus shelters smashed and countless street barricades erected and set alight.
Some 20,000 police and soldiers have been deployed in the city, using tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.
But they have also been responsible for five of the deaths, while social media have lit up with accusations of torture and abuses by the security forces.
Industrial action called by Chile’s most powerful union, the Workers’ United Center of Chile (CUT,) that began on Wednesday continued, but in central Santiago people seemed to be going to work as normal with shops and businesses opening their doors.
Overnight Wednesday was the calmest yet of five nigthtime curfews, while a two-week state of emergency is now in its sixth day.
“We’re working on a plan to normalize life in our country … to end the curfew and hopefully to lift the state of emergency,” Pinera said.
The national human rights institute (INDH) says 535 people have been injured — 239 by firearms — and 2,410 detained.
Nine of the deaths came in fires started by looters.