Chileans Strike for Second Day

Posted August 25th, 2011 at 2:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Tens of thousands of protesters turned out in Chile's capital, Santiago, Thursday, on the second day of a two-day national strike to press for education reform.

Government officials say at least 42 people were injured during the previous night as protesters clashed with police. Authorities said at least some of the injured were police officers, with at least two of them shot.

Demonstrators have looted stores, set fires and thrown rocks during the protests against President Sebastian Pinera's policies. Authorities say as many as 300 buses were damaged in the violence. Police have responded to the demonstrations with water cannon and tear gas.

On Wednesday, 36 people were injured as police tried to shut down demonstrations in the capital. Officials say hundreds of people have been arrested since Wednesday.

The government has condemned the strike, and said it would cost the country about $200 million per day.

Business in most parts of Santiago was uninterrupted on Wednesday, with public transportation continuing to function and traffic flowing through most streets, despite blockades set up by protesters.

Chilean government officials said only 5 percent of public employees participated in the work stoppage on its first day, calling the strike a “great failure.”

The strike was called by Chile's main labor union, CUT, in support of students who have been protesting for weeks for education reform and an overhaul of educational funding. Strike organizers have also called for tax reform and constitutional change.

President Pinera announced cuts in the education budget earlier this year. The president has called on students to reach a negotiated solution with the government based on 21 proposals he presented, but no agreement has been finalized. The Chilean leader faces sagging approval ratings.

The last time Chileans held a two-day national strike was during the rule of General Augusto Pinochet, who held power from 1973 until 1990.