Aug 25 - Thousands of Chileans participate in a massive rally demanding increased social spending, as hunger strikers call off their protest after 37 days without food. Nick Rowlands reports.
Thousands of Chileans take to the streets of the capital Santiago to demand greater social spending by the government. It's the first day of a two-day national strike called by Chile's main umbrella labour union. The strike comes in the wake of huge demonstrations by students wanting free education. But demands now go beyond educational reform, to include calls for a new constitution, a revamped tax system, and higher salaries - in short, that the government uses more of its copper wealth on social spending. Meanwhile, a group of students have ended the hunger strike they began 37 days ago to call for more affordable and improved education. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) GLORIA NEGRETE, STUDENT ENDING HUNGER STRIKE: "In light of our relatives' and closest friends' concern and anguish over our progressively more critical state of health, we've made the following decision to set aside the hunger strike." But for the students the battle is far from over. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) GLORIA NEGRETE, STUDENT ENDING HUNGER STRIKE: "We feel that we should be whole to continue the struggle that has yet to end. Through all of this, we demonstrate our rejection to the government which has maintained an intransigent position." While Chile's economy is booming, many people don't feel they are sharing in an economic miracle fueled by high copper prices. According to a recent poll, President Sebastian Pinera is the least popular leader since the end of General Pinochet's rule two decades ago. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.