Thousands of Chileans protest Venezuelan immigration, tearing down refugee encampments
Demonstrators marched through the city of Iquique Monday and Tuesday, waving Chilean flags and demanding the expulsion of what they called foreign criminals. Some tore down tents that had housed migrants, while at least one person was beaten by the crowd.
There has been an increase in people arriving in Chile after fleeing Venezuela’s economic collapse.
The protest, which attracted 4,000 people, was triggered by a video that showed two Chilean policemen being attacked at a checkpoint by suspected Venezuelan drug dealers. According to government records, in recent weeks there has been an increase in people arriving in Chile after fleeing Venezuela’s economic collapse.
Chile, one of the wealthiest countries in South America, has been a destination of choice for many Venezuelans, despite pandemic restrictions in recent years. After Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil, Chile is host the largest diaspora of Venezuelans, about 300,000.
There have been growing tensions over border control in the country, with migration and crime among voters’ biggest concerns in last year’s presidential elections. Leftist candidate Gabriel Boric won the election and became the country’s youngest ever leader last month, defeating his far-right opponent José Antonio Kast.
Kast, however, gained significant support because of his pleged to control the number of migrants entering the country.
“This can’t go on,” read one banner from Sunday’s protest, which was marred by incidents of violence. Videos on social networks showed a man lying on the ground surrounded by police officers while protesters shouted at him.
Some protesters also destroyed belongings taken from migrant camps in the streets. However, police said they had made no arrests because there had been “no serious disorder”.