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Chilean president shaking up government amid protests

Chile's President Sebastian Pinera asked all his cabinet members to offer their resignations on Saturday as he prepared to shake up his government in response to a massive wave of protests, including one that drew more than a million people into the streets the day before.
"The march we all saw yesterday was a massive and peaceful march ...," the conservative president said. "We have all heard the message. We have all changed."
He promised "a new Cabinet to confront these new demands and take charge of the new times."
Pinera also said he might lift the state of emergency that has covered much of the country for the past nine days — a decree that had failed to bring peace after rioting broke out in response to a 4-cent rise in subway fares.
The protests rapidly expanded to cover a far wider sense of frustration among many Chileans who felt they had been struggling to make do for years as the well-off grew increasingly richer. Friday's demonstration was the largest in at least 35 years.
"All of them (Cabinet ministers) should go because they have been laughing at the people," said Sonia Novoa, a 78-year-old retiree.
Protesters have been calling for better pay, pensions, schools, housing and medical care, among many other demands. While most of the protests have been peaceful, some — especially at the start — have devolved into riots and looting, and the government says at least 20 people have died.
Pinera has responded by raising pensions and the minimum wage, as well as by revoking the subway fare hike. He said he is also considering cutting water fees and highway tolls.
For Pablo Rodriguez, a 30-year-old actor, the steps "are a good start, but aren't sufficient."
Some of those who protested on Friday said they would return to the downtown Italy Plaza to clean up the garbage and debris left behind.
"But I am going to take advantage of that and say to protest again," said student Andres Villarroel as he headed downtown.


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