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400 arrested in Chile workers march

A senator is among dozens injured in scuffles with police.

August 30, 2007|From Times Wire Services

SANTIAGO, CHILE — Chilean police using tear gas and water cannons arrested more than 400 people among thousands of protesters marching Wednesday in the capital to demand better salaries and working conditions at a time when the economy is booming.

Dozens of people, including journalists and a senator, were injured in scuffles with the police, who blocked off the city center. Some police officers also were injured.

Thousands of workers from the nation's largest labor federation marched to pressure the government to change laws and improve pay to give workers a portion of the soaring profits Chile's industries have enjoyed in recent years.

Local television showed Sen. Alejandro Navarro of the ruling coalition with blood running from a head wound after a riot officer struck him with a truncheon.

Deputy Interior Minister Felipe Harboe said the incident would be investigated.

The center-left government has maintained a largely free-market economic model, which includes free-trade agreements with the United States and other countries.

Protest organizers called for higher pensions and better education, healthcare and housing services.

Chile, the biggest copper producer in the world, has benefited from high prices for the metal. The central bank has forecast economic growth of about 6% for this year.

The nation is considered an economic model in Latin America and has one of the lowest poverty levels in the region, but President Michelle Bachelet's government has faced frequent protests from students and workers who want to share in the prosperity.

Last week, Bachelet formed a council to propose measures to boost employment, income, competition and social equality.

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