Support for Chile's Sebastian Pinera has plunged to just 14 percent amid recent unrest, according to a poll published Sunday, the lowest approval rating for a Chilean president since the country's return to democracy three decades ago.
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The survey, published in local daily La Tercera, was conducted by Chilean pollster Cadem between Wednesday and Thursday. It came just before a rally that saw 1 million Chileans, or just under one-fifth the city's population, take to the streets Friday to call for reforms to the country's social and economic model.
Daily La Tercera called Pinera's 14 percent approval rating a "historical minimum," and the lowest since the 1973-1990 military rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet. More than three-quarters of Chileans disapproved of the center-right Pinera's administration, the poll found.
Chile, the world's top copper producer, had been hailed by the West as the region's most stable free-market economies. But entrenched inequality and spiraling costs of living ignited massive, and sometimes violent, protests last week.
Similar scenes have played out in cities across the world in recent months, from Hong Kong to Beirut to Quito to Barcelona, sharing in common anger at ruling elites.
In Chile, a hike in subway fares more than a week ago proved to be the breaking point. Small protests quickly boiled over into riots that have killed at least 17 people, resulted in more than 7,000 arrests and caused upwards of US$1.4 billion in losses to Chilean businesses.
Pinera, a billionaire businessman, last week called for a new "social pact," to stem the unrest. He promised higher taxes on the rich to help boost the minimum wage and pensions, lower the prices of medicines and assure proper health insurance.
The Cadem poll found that 80 percent of Chileans did not think his reforms were adequate.
Roberto Izikson, a pollster and political scientist with Cadem, told Reuters Pinera's ratings were already trending downwards before the protests began. "We will see how the government plays the last few cards it holds to confront this new scenario," Izikson said.
On Saturday, Pinera promised a major cabinet shake-up, though he has yet to announce details. He also announced the end of the state of emergency in most regions of the country starting at midnight Sunday into Monday.
The protests have seen dozens dead and hundreds injured and Saturday saw the biggest mobilization ever seen in the country with over one million people taking to the streets of the capital Santiago.
There have also been reports of torture, sexual abuse, and crucifixion of detained protesters, according to local human rights organizations. The United Nations is sending a team of investigators to the country that will arrive Monday.