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Chileans rally to demand promised reforms

Tens of thousands gather in Santiago to send message to President Bachelet she must follow through on election promises.

Last updated: 22 Mar 2014 22:21
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Protesters marched through central Santiago [Reuters]

Tens of thousands of protesters have marched in Chile to press Michelle Bachelet to follow through on ambitious reforms she pledged before assuming the presidency less than two weeks ago.

The protest on Saturday in central Santiago, dubbed "the march of all marches", was the first of Bachelet's new term and the biggest political demonstration since huge student protests in 2011.

Organisers said at least 100,000 people were present, even without core groups of student protesters active in the past. Those activists said they would not take part because they were working with Bachelet on education reforms soon be sent to Congress.

The march underscored lingering frustrations in Chile, which has one of the region's widest inequality gaps. It also raised expectations following four years of rule by the unpopular Sebastian Pinera.

Protesters said the march was a warning sign they would not go easy on Bachelet.

"This is not a protest against Bachelet or for her, it's just an alert for the political class so they know people have demands," said Oscar Rementeria, a spokesman for gay rights group, Movilh.

The 40 activist groups that helped fill the streets supported causes ranging from environmental protection to gay and indigenous rights.

Protesters also called for a new constitution to replace the one in place since Augusto Pinochet's 17-year-old dictatorship. Bachelet has backed a new constitution.

Bachelet has said she wants to address social inequality by overhauling education and healthcare, funded by tax reforms.

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Reuters
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