Aug. 24 - Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in parts of Chile's capital on Wednesday (August 24) as a two-day national strike began against President Sebastian Pinera. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
(ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Protesters barricaded roads and burned tires in parts of Chile's capital on Wednesday (August 24) as a two-day national strike began against unpopular President Sebastian Pinera. The strike, called by Chile's main umbrella labor union CUT and coming on the heels of huge demonstrations by students demanding free education, got off to a slow start. Protester demands went beyond educational change, ranging from a new constitution to a revamped tax system. While previous governments have faced one-day national strikes, it was the first 48-hour national strike since the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. Government spokesman Andres Chadwick said police defused some protests earlier on Wednesday, and that beyond traffic disruptions, the situation was "normal." The government has said it would not tolerate roadblocks and estimates the strike would cost Chile about $200 million a day. Protesters clashed with police in recent weeks as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to rail against the conservative Pinera, who, according to a recent poll, is the least popular leader in the two decades since the end of Pinochet's rule. While Latin America's model economy is seen expanding 6.6 percent this year and is an investor magnet thanks to prudent fiscal and monetary policies, many ordinary Chileans feel they are not sharing in an economic miracle fueled by high copper prices. While some miners said they supported the strike, mining in the world's top copper producer was not disrupted.