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Low gov’t approval marks anniversary of Chile’s 2019 protests

Almost 200 people were jailed on Tuesday, amid massive rallies celebrating the third anniversary of the widespread protests that kicked off in Chile on October 18, 2019. The government reported violent clashes between police and protesters, the ransacking of shops, and more than 40 people left injured.

Most of the incidents took place in the Santiago Metropolitan Region, including the theft of a public bus used to loot a supermarket.

The events come at a bad time for President Gabriel Boric, who is facing his lowest approval ratings since taking office, as crime and violence rise to the top of Chile’s public agenda.

Mr. Boric, a former left-wing student leader, came to power in the aftermath of the protests, having proposed a constitutional referendum as a way of channeling public discontent with the system.

But his approval ratings stand at a meager 27 percent only six months after taking office, a Cadem poll showed on October 17.

Those ratings put him below his right-wing and center-left predecessors, Sebastián Piñera and Michelle Bachelet respectively, during their first year in office, although both would eventually reach lower numbers during their second and third years in the post.

Mr. Boric offered an alternative to center-left and center-right administrations of the country’s recent democratic past, arguing that a re-writing of the Constitution could do away with the legacy of Chile’s dictatorship years.

But the proposal put forward by an elected Constitutional Assembly was soundly rejected on September 4, tipping his government into a crisis.

Public perception of the protests has also deteriorated since 2019, with 30 percent of Chileans now saying they were a disruption of public order caused by groups that organized for violent purposes, versus 12 percent who thought this in 2019. Those who say the protests were an expression of discontent have fallen from 72 to 61 percent.

Only 38 percent of Chileans now believe the police abused their powers during the protests, in contrast to the 69 percent who thought so in 2019.

During his address to the country on Tuesday, the president tried to strike a more centrist tone, saying the protests were not an “anti-capitalist revolution” but also not “a mere wave of crime.”

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