Police, Protesters Clash in Southern Chile

SANTIAGO – Taxi drivers battled police Monday in the streets of Coyhaique, capital of the southern Chilean region of Aysen, amid ongoing protests over the area’s high cost of living and lack of jobs.

The disturbances took place near Teniente Vidal Airport as police were escorting a fuel truck into the city. Several cabbies were hit by police pellets while trying to block the truck’s path with stones and barricades, Radio Biobio said.

Chile’s health and transport ministers arrived in Coyhaique on Monday to pursue a dialogue with local residents and activists.

President Sebastian Piñera dispatched the Cabinet members to Aysen with instructions to resolve the conflict, government spokesman Andres Chadwick said in Santiago.

The protesters want officials to do something about the high cost of living in their area, which is relatively isolated, to improve the quality of healthcare and take steps to foster job creation.

At the same time, some Aysen residents have complained that the road-blocking protests are leading to severe shortages of food and fuel.

The regional governor, Pilar Cuevas, told reporters her administration has filed charges against protesters for harming police and carrying Molotov cocktails.

Residents, however, have filed a motion with the Coyhaique Court of Appeals seeking an injunction against police repression, protest spokesman Ivan Fuentes told Efe. EFE

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