Violence resurges in protest-racked Chile, nearly 300 arrested

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A resurgence of violence ripped across Chile late on Monday evening, leading to hundreds of arrests, according to the interior ministry, and temporarily shutting down some public transportation in the capital Santiago.

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The city of 6 million saw raucous protesters force several metro stations to close, hobbling downtown transportation. Rioters burning barricades on several major streets also prompted bus lines to temporarily halt service.

Interior minister Gonzalo Blumel, cited on the ministry’s official Twitter account, said police detained 283 people following clashes in which protesters lodged rocks and bricks at security forces. Seventy-six police were injured and several police stations were attacked, Blumel said on Twitter.

“During the night, what we saw was crime, pure and simple,” Blumel said.

The Chilean cities of Antofagasta, Temuco and Concepcion also saw outbursts of violence.

March often brings protests in Chile as people return from the Southern Hemisphere summer holiday. This month will mark the 30-year anniversary of the end of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, as well as international women’s day.

Protests broke out in Chile in October and raged until mid-December over social injustices and entrenched inequality.

Rioters burned buildings, metro trains and stops and looted hundreds of supermarkets. The unrest saw the military take to the streets for the first time since the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet.

At least 31 people have died, thousands injured and tens of thousands arrested, according to government statistics.

Blumel noted on Twitter Tuesday morning that the violence was still significantly smaller in scale and destructiveness than what was seen in October and November last year, when protests began.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood, Natalia Ramos and Fabian Cambero