Opposition groups stage two-day demonstration against Chile's military regime
The response of Gen. Augusto Pinochet Ugarte's military regime to a two-day protest strike so far appears to be remarkably low key. The ``peaceful days of protest'' and partial strike were called by opposition political and labor groups, some of whose top leaders are in jail. They face charges under Chile's tough internal security laws for a similar protest in September, when 10 persons were killed.
Adm. Jos'e Toribio Merino Castro, a member of the ruling four-man junta, discounted the possibility of a new state of siege being imposed on the country. After similar protests in November 1984, General Pinochet imposed a state of siege which remained in place for seven months. This time the authorities have not even extended the normal 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. curfew.
The first day of the strike effectively closed down Santiago Tuesday. Public transport dropped markedly and most shops shut down. A bomb blast destroyed an electric transmission tower, plunging Santiago and other cities into darkness. Police reported 34 injuries and more than 150 arrests, but no deaths. Morning traffic on Wednesday was near normal.
The Nov. 5-6 strike was called partly to support calls for freeing several of those jailed for calling the September protests. After those protests, the government called dozens of union, student, political, and local leaders before investigative judges for ``actions contrary to the public order.'' University students mounted an intense campaign of pressure and the regime eventually released the imprisoned student body officers.
Chile's 12-year-old regime is also smarting from its abandonment by former partisans of traditional right-wing political groups.