Chile’s government said on Friday that it is backing away from a plan to cut corporate taxes following two weeks of protests that have shaken the country and forced the cancellation of two major international summits that had been scheduled for Santiago. With President Sebastian Piera facing massive demonstrations featuring demands for higher wages, better pensions and improved health care, his treasury secretary announced Friday the government is dropping a plan for business tax breaks.
Earlier, Piera said that he was cancelling the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and UN global climate gatherings, which were planned for November and December, due to the chaos unleashed by the protests in one of the wealthiest, but most unequal counties in Latin America.
Demonstrators carrying indigenous and national flags sang popular resistance songs from the 1973-90 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship era as the country, usually seen as one of the most stable in Latin America, grapples with its worst violence in decades.
Santiago's governor Karla Rubilar described it as "a historic day" on Twitter, praising "a peaceful march... representing the dream of a new Chile." Rubilar said more than a million were demonstrating around the country, while Santiago's town hall put the number of people marching in the capital at 820,000, citing police figures.
For the past week, Chileans' pent-up anger has spilled over in the form of protests against a socio-economic structure that many feel has left them by the wayside, with low wages and pensions, costly health care and education, and a big gap between rich and poor.
Opposition leaders say that’s not enough and like many protesters, they demand a new constitution to replace the 1980 charter written under Gen. Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship, which allows many social services and natural resources, including water, to be wholly or partially privatized.