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Protest strike disrupts commute, mines in Chile


Protesters disrupted traffic in the Chilean capital and blocked access to mining operations Thursday as part of a national strike called by the country's main labor federation.

Burning barricades were erected at a various locations around Santiago during the morning rush hour, and protesters commandeered a bus and set it on fire after forcing the driver and passengers to disembark, police said.

Hundreds of police were deployed around the city even as the the mayor's office and the Central Unica de Trabajadores (CUT) union reached agreement on a path for a protest march through Santiago.

The CUT is calling for a new labor law, tax reform, an increase in the minimum wage and to replace a privately managed pension system with one that would be run by the state.

The labor action comes amid rising social tensions four months ahead of general elections November 17, on top of unrelenting student protests demanding a free, high quality public university system.

In Thursday's protest, demonstrators cut access roads to mines run by the state-run copper producer Codelco, the world's largest.

On its Twitter account, Codelco said that "despite the access problems, all Codelco divisions are operating normally. Only in Ministro Hales did the first shift not make it to work."

Despite the protests, the Santiago airport was operating normally, and stores and businesses were open.