Santiago – Six police officers were wounded by gunfire and hundreds of people arrested during the first day of a 48-hour nationwide general strike called by the CUT labor federation, Chilean authorities said Thursday.
Most of the arrests took place in Santiago, including 25 people detained for looting or theft, Deputy Interior Secretary Rodrigo Ubilla said.
Strikers and protesters in the capital also damaged 285 public buses in the course of constant skirmishes with police, Ubilla told reporters.
Two senior officers were shot in an attack on a police station in the area of La Pincoya, while militants hurled Molotov cocktails at a police kiosk in central Santiago, the official said.
Three supermarkets were looted in the south-side neighborhood of San Bernardo and the town hall of nearby San Ramon was sacked by hooded attackers, Ubilla said.
A group of around 25 people stoned the Santiago headquarters of the teachers association - one of the groups supporting the strike - and tried to burn down the building.
Claudina Nuñez, the Communist mayor of the capital municipality of Pedro Aguirre Cerda, said plainclothes police barged into her living quarters, which are located inside the town hall, during the wee hours.
Police were busy early Thursday dispersing protesters as they put up barricades in various parts of Santiago, a metropolis of 6.2 million residents.
The CUT, backed by scores of student, grassroots and political organizations, obtained authorization for four marches Thursday that are supposed to converge in downtown Santiago for a brief rally.
Strikers' demands include removing the lingering constitutional vestiges of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship, boosting taxes on corporations, reversing the privatization of the retirement system and allocating more resources to health and education.
The government of President Sebastian Piñera, a right-wing billionaire who has seen his approval rating plummet to 26 percent, insists the general strike is having little impact.