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Nationwide strike staged in Chile over working conditions, tax reform


10:43, July 12, 2013

SANTIAGO, July 11 (Xinhua) -- Chile's major labor union on Thursday organized a 24-hour nationwide strike, demanding better working conditions and tax reform.

Earlier in the day, protesters erected barricades along certain thoroughfares in the capital of Santiago, blocking morning traffic and cutting roads to state-run mines. Public sectors, including healthcare and copper mining, came to a standstill.

By midday, labor unions have massed along the main avenues of major Chilean cities. Thursday's protest was one of the largest in years in the Andean country.

The Central Union of Workers (CUT) organized the strike pressing for a rise in the minimum wage, reforms in the labor law as well as pension plan, and increased taxation of major companies to finance public services, such as education and healthcare.

Barbara Figueroa, president of the CUT, said that some 200,000 people took to the streets in Santiago, and another 300,000 marched in cities around the country, including workers and students.

"Today we say enough, stop the abuse, stop the inequality, we are standing up to fight for our demands in conjunction with other sectors of the society," Figueroa told reporters after the protests.

However, the Chilean government downplayed the protests, saying that only a small part of workers have participated. Santiago city officials estimated that the number of protesters in the Chilean capital was about 30,000.

Interior Minister Andres Chadwick said only 5.8 percent of public-sector workers took part in the strike.

"Public services worked well throughout the country and no disruptions have occurred in public administration," Chadwick said.

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