Police officers hit by petrol bombs as violent protests escalate in Chile
November 7, 2019

Female police officers have been photographed screaming in pain after being set alight by molotov cocktails in Chile.

The South American nation has been rocked by violent anti-government protests in recent weeks which have largely taken place in the capital city, Santiago.

For almost three weeks, tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest rising inequality and to demand better public services.

The officers suffered serious facial burns. Picture: Claudio Reyes/AFPSource:AFP

The action was triggered by a hike in subway fares, and since then, the mass protests have turned deadly, with at least 20 people killed.

Homemade bombs have been thrown, traffic blocked, train stations decimated and buses and buildings torched.

Last weekend, two female police officers were engulfed by flames after riot police tried to break up further protests in Santiago.

The blaze was extinguished by colleagues who rushed to help the women.

According to Reuters, Maria Jose Hernandez Torres, 25, and Abigail Catalina Aburto Cardenas, 20, were burnt in the attack and are now recovering from serious facial burns in a serious condition in an intensive care unit in hospital.

The injured women are recovering in hospital. Picture: Claudio Reyes/AFPSource:AFP

Riot police are reached by a petrol bomb during clashes. Picture: Claudio Reyes/AFPSource:AFP

Chilean police also captured bodycam footage of the molotov cocktail attack, which was shared to Twitter earlier this week.

The clip shows several officers standing close together in protective uniforms before an explosion left several of them engulfed in flames.

#Santiago: Dos Carabineras de la 28a. Com. Fuerzas Especiales son cobardemente atacadas con bombas molotov en Pza Italia. Trasladadas de urgencia al Hospital institucional, en la UTI con quemaduras faciales graves. #CuidemosACarabineros pic.twitter.com/bCR3F8bAi7

Chile’s Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel slammed the attack, telling Reuters it was an act of “pure violence”.

“It was a violent, cowardly aggression against two police officers who were working to protect the safety of our compatriots,” he said.

However, many protesters have also made allegations of police brutality to a visiting UN human rights team which has arrived to document the situation.

And according to AP, Chile’s state Medical College reports more than 180 people have suffered severe eye injuries, most of them caused by rubber bullets used to disperse crowds in the protests.

Grab taken from AFP video shows a riot police officer been reached by a petrol bomb. Picture: Pablo Cozzaglio/AFPSource:AFP

Police officers run to get assistance after being hit. Picture: Esteban Felix/APSource:AP

At least 20 people have been killed so far. Picture: Esteban Felix/APSource:AP

Meanwhile, Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, a right-wing billionaire, is attempting to introduce a government measure to raise the minimum salary to around $A470 per month in a bid to quell the unrest.

The government also previously revealed it would abandon a plan to cut corporate taxes as a result of the unrest.

But the crisis is so severe many have called for Mr Pinera to resign – a suggestion he has flatly refused.

Protesters are demanding constitutional reform. Picture: Esteban Felix/APSource:AP

“These problems have been accumulating for the past 30 years,” Mr Pinera said in an interview with the BBC recently.

“I am responsible (for) part of it and I assume my responsibility, but I’m not the only one.”

Chile is one of the richest countries in Latin America, and has enjoyed years of stability and relative prosperity.

However, protesters are now demanding a reform of the current constitution, which was introduced during the bloody regime of dictator General Augusto Pinochet, which lasted from 1973 to 1990.

A new poll by Cadem revealed 87 per cent of Chilean residents support a reform, while Mr Pinera’s approval rating was just 13 per cent.

– with wire copy