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Protests erupt in Chile despite Cabinet reshuffle

By Darryl Coote
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Protests erupt in Chile despite Cabinet reshuffle
Demonstrators stand near fires during a protest against the government of President Sebastian Pinera in the streets of Santiago, Chile, on Monday. Photo by Fernando Bizerra Jr./EPA-EFE

Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has replaced key members of his Cabinet amid ongoing violent protests that have resulted in at least 20 deaths.

Pinera announced the reshuffling via Twitter on Monday, saying it was to enhance dialogue with the citizens and to create greater national unity.

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"I appreciate the great commitment and vocation of the ministers who leave the Cabinet today," he said.

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A total of eight Cabinet ministers were replaced, including the Minister of Interior, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of the General Secretariat of the Presidency, the government said in a press release.

Pinera said the change was is to create a government that better reflects a present-day Chile to combat its new challenges.

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The release states that the swapping of ministers brings the average age to 42 while adding more women to the Cabinet.

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"Our government has heard the strong and clear message of the Chileans, who ask for and deserve a more just and supportive Chile, a Chile with more dignity and without abuse, a Chile with greater equality of opportunity and fewer privileges and also a more prosperous and peaceful Chile," he said in his speech after the new ministers took their oath.

The reshuffling is the latest political move by Pinera to try and resolve the conflict following last week's promise of economic and social reforms that include an immediate 20 percent increase in the Basic Solidarity Pension for some 590,000 pensioners, a reduction in the price of medicine and the creation of a mechanism to stabilize electricity rates.

However, hours after the Cabinet reshuffle, new demonstrations erupted in the capital Santiago with protesters lighting bonfires and clashing with riot police who deployed tear gas to disperse the crowds.

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Last week, U.N. Human Rights chief and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet said via Twitter she will be dispatching a team to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the country by Pinera's government, which has come under scrutiny for its strong response to the unrest.

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The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the death toll rose to 20 over the weekend after a burned body was found inside a supermarket that was torched during protests on Oct. 24.

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