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Chile: Explosive Epidemic

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Chile’s President Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, 68, was opening an international trade fair in suburban Santiago when less than 600 feet away a bomb ripped up a lengthy section of railroad track. No one was injured in the blast, which was one of at least 19 in the capital and four other Chilean cities last week. That explosive epidemic capped a new political offensive by opponents of the eleven-year-old Pinochet regime.

The centerpiece of the protest was a one-day general strike that left downtown Santiago virtually deserted. More than 150,000 workers took part in the action, which was not endorsed by Chile’s democratic opposition parties. In dozens of Santiago neighborhoods, riot police attacked demonstrators who had erected barricades of burning automobile tires. At least eight people died, and some 400 were arrested. Later, four riot police were killed when a bomb blew up a bus on which they were traveling. The regime remained unbending. Before the protest began, a government spokesman announced that 140 “delinquents and petty criminals,” whom the opposition described as grass-roots activists, had been sent into domestic exile. Pinochet reiterated his intention to remain in power until 1989 and threatened to declare a state of siege “if the situation requires.”

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