Chile fishermen protest to demand return to Port of Valparaiso

Santiago (AFP) – Chilean fishing boats clashed Wednesday with navy officials at the Port of Valparaiso as they demanded to return to work at one of the country's major seaports.

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More than 200 fishermen, in boats of different sizes, protested in the port. They set fire to at least five huge tires hanging on the walls of the pier, according to AFP images.

The tires are there to prevent ships from colliding when they dock.

Uniformed Chilean Navy officers on patrol boats, who are in charge of port security, tried to put out the fires with jets of water from hoses that they also aimed at the fishing boats in an attempt to move them away.

"Naval personnel made use of rubber bullets with compressed air and fired them at the different boats that were in the sector," said Valparaiso's maritime governor Nelson Saavedra.

He said that fishermen responded with "stones, benzine, accelerant, paint bombs and also ran into the Navy boats."

Maritime police shoot tear gas at a fishing boat protesting in the Port of Valparaiso, Chile
Maritime police shoot tear gas at a fishing boat protesting in the Port of Valparaiso, Chile Raul ZAMORA ATON CHILE/AFP

The protesters said at least three of their numbers were injured. The fishermen are demanding the government fulfill an agreement to build a new dock at the port for their use.

The workers expect to be "compensated for the next four years during which they will be without a cove where they will not be able to work," the fishermen's lawyer, Felipe Olea, told local media.

Eight years ago, the fishermen were removed from an area of the Port of Valparaiso where they operated due to construction being done there.

They were transferred to the coastal town of Quintero, 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Valparaiso.

View of smoke as fishermen set tires on fire during a protest in the Port of Valparaiso, Chile
View of smoke as fishermen set tires on fire during a protest in the Port of Valparaiso, Chile Sebastián CISTERNAS ATON CHILE/AFP

The Port of Valparaiso, the country's second-largest, moved 9.3 million tons of cargo in 2019, while annually receiving at least 40 cruise ships and 100,000 visitors.