‘Chile Woke Up’: Dictatorship’s Legacy of Inequality Triggers Mass Protests

A country upended: Protesters erected a barricade on a Santiago street last week.

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SANTIAGO, Chile — The suddenness of the protests, the anger that spilled onto the streets every day, might have been surprising anywhere. But in the country often lauded as Latin America’s great economic success story, it has shocked the world.

For three weeks, Chile has been in upheaval. One day alone, more than a million people took to the streets of Santiago, the capital.

Perhaps the only people not shocked are Chileans. In the chaos, they see a reckoning. The promise that political leaders from the left as well as right have made for decades — that free markets would lead to prosperity, and prosperity would take care of other problems — has failed them.

“Chile woke up,” thousands of protesters chanted one recent Sunday afternoon in Santiago’s O’Higgins Park.

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