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|Targeted in protests, Chile removes general's statue|
In this file photo taken on October 16, 2020, a demonstrator sprays in red the General Baquedano monument during a protest against Chilean President Sebastian Pinera's government at Plaza Italia square, in Santiago. The statue of General Manuel Baquedano in Santiago's Plaza Italia, vandalised every week in the most radical protests, was removed on March 12, 2021 amid a symbolic battle for control of the place that concentrates social demonstrations in Chile. Martin BERNETTI / AFP.
SANTIAGO (AFP).- The statue of a 19th-century Chilean general was temporarily removed from a Santiago square Friday after being repeatedly vandalized during protests.
The likeness of General Manuel Baquedano on horseback -- burnt, painted and dented in months of demonstrations -- was lifted from its pedestal in the early morning hours as military veterans paid their respects.
Nearby, a dozen protesters were detained.
Baquedano and his statue was not a specific target of protests that started in Chile in October 2019 against social inequality, corruption, and the rising cost of living.
But it got drawn into a symbolic tussle between protesters and authorities for control of the central square named after him.
The protests have continued, though on a much smaller scale, despite a referendum last October -- a key demand of the demonstrators -- voting to replace Chile's dictatorship-era constitution.
Week after week, hold-out protesters have taken aim at the statue, once painting it completely red, and repeatedly trying to topple it from its plinth.
On Monday, a group of hooded men tried to dismantle the statue with saws and hammers as a Women's Day rally was unfolding at its feet.
Three days earlier, it was set on fire.
President Sebastian Pinera said Thursday the monument, erected in 1928, will be replaced as soon as it has been fully restored "because we want to show our appreciation and respect for our heroes."
Baquedano was a hero of the War of the Pacific Chile fought against Peru and Bolivia in the late 19th century.
His statue overlooks the tomb of an unknown soldier who died in the same war.
© Agence France-Presse
March 13, 2021
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