Other officers have been accused of a beating and sexual abuse as unrest enters third week, with 2,000 injured
A Chilean police major who shot two students during a school protest has been arrested as a wave of political unrest enters a third week and the number of injured in street violence topped 2,000.
Maj Humberto Tapia was arrested by detectives on Thursday and charged with illegally discharging his shotgun inside a public school that had been occupied by students on Tuesday. A call by the beleaguered principal led to a confrontation with students in which Tapia fired into the floor, sending buckshot ricocheting into the legs of students.
The arrest came a day after prosecutors announced that 12 other police were under investigation for allegedly beating a 55-year-old man and amid growing allegations that officers had raped and sexually abused detained protesters.
At least three soldiers have been charged for shooting protesters while an estimated 4,500 protesters have been arrested, although the vast majority have been released within 24 hours.
What began as a protest over a rise in subway fares has grown into a tsunami of unrest in which hundreds of thousands of Chileans have joined peaceful marches calling for an overhaul of the countrys economic and social model.
Some protests have also turned violent and arson and looting is calculated to have caused as much as $1.5bn in damages.
Chiles embattled president, Sebastin Piera, has been accused of a heavy-handed response to the protests: he initially responded by saying the country was at war and has since appeared to lurch between conciliation and further crackdown.
On Thursday afternoon, he summoned the heads of the armed forces, supreme court and congress for an urgent meeting of the national security council and called for emergency legislation to increase prison sentences for protesters who wear masks, build barricades or destroy property.
Piera also called for the creation of a new intelligence effort to increase surveillance of politically active Chileans.
Such efforts are likely to cause concern in a country that only emerged from military rule in 1990 and has since witnessed a string of scandals involving the police. Last week, thousands of documents were dumped on the internet after the national police computer system was hacked, revealing surveillance of students and environmental activists.
Jorge Sharp, a former student protest leader who is now mayor of the port city of Valparaso, said on Twitter that Piera had missed the point. More repression wont resolve the social injustices, Sharp said. It will only provoke more violence.
In an attempt to defuse the nationwide rebellion that has lowered his approval rating to 9%, Piera has met with an injured protester and told the country in a broadcast that he too had participated in marches and fought for justice.
But when his health minister, Jaime Maalich, arrived at Salvador hospital in Santiago on Thursday morning to visit injured civilians, a spontaneous protest led by nurses, doctors and hospital staff led to scenes of chaos.
Maalich was first trapped inside the hospital, then barely made it into a ministerial car, which, as it left the public hospital, proceeded to run over one of the protesters.