SANTIAGO — Chile’s police chief resigned Friday after coming under pressure over the high-profile shooting death of a teenage protester that has fueled social unrest in the Andean nation.
General Eduardo Gordon’s position as general director of the carabineros became untenable when the government asked him to respond to a report that he had intervened to protect his son from charges related to a car accident.
“I have submitted my resignation to the president of the republic and he accepted it,” Gordon said in comments carried live on state television after an hour-long meeting with President Sebastian Pinera.
“This is not easy… to have to take these measures, to maintain the trust and confidence that the nation has in the police,” said Gordon, who did not give a reason for his resignation.
The death last week of 16-year-old Manuel Gutierrez further inflamed social tensions in Chile, where the government has faced a wave of student and union protests that culminated last week in a 48-hour general strike.
Gutierrez was shot dead during clashes between police and protesters in southern Santiago, as violence erupted around the country.
Miguel Millacura, the officer who allegedly fired the shots that killed the teenager, has been charged and is behind bars.
“I apologize sincerely to the family. I did not intend to kill him,” he told journalists on Friday.
Eight others force members have been dismissed over the incident, including a high-ranking police general who forcefully denied the day after the shooting that any officer had fired a shot.
Pinera, a conservative billionaire whose popularity soared after the spectacular rescue of 33 Chilean miners last October after 69 days tapped underground, is facing growing discontent.
With the economy set to grow by more than six percent in 2011, many in the mineral-rich nation wonder why they are not sharing in the prosperity.
Students, workers, ecologists and gay rights activists are among the tens of thousands who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to press demands on issues from building electric dams in Patagonia to improving education.
For three months now Chile has seen mass protests calling for the elimination of a voucher system that supports private universities and demanding free, higher quality education at public universities.
A recent poll gave Pinera just a 26 percent approval rating, making him the least popular Chilean leader since General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-90 dictatorship.
Gordon was appointed police chief in May 2008 after his predecessor General Jose Alejandro Bernales was killed in a helicopter crash while visiting Panama City for a conference.
News reports said Gordon last year sought to protect his son after involvement in a hit-and-run accident last year.
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