Protest against poverty Couple set themselves on fire at Chile's presidential palace
27 June 2005
An unemployed man and his wife set themselves on fire in front of Chile’s La Moneda presidential palace Thursday to protest their impoverished condition and the government’s failure to provide them with adequate assistance.
Vladimir Poblete, 39, and Ana Perez, 56, driven to desperation, took a bus to Plaza Constitucion in front of the palace in the morning. Wrapping themselves in a tattered Chilean flag, they doused themselves with gasoline and set themselves on fire in front of startled onlookers and scores of police.
Engulfed in flames, they managed to reach the base of a statue of Chile’s former President Salvador Allende, who was murdered in the US-backed military coup of September 11, 1973.
Poblete was reported in grave condition Friday, having suffered severe damage to his lungs from breathing in fire and heat. He was being kept alive on a ventilation machine. His wife suffered burns to her face, neck and hands, but was expected to recover.
A friend of the couple, Carmen Negrete, said that they had decided to stage their grim protest out of despair over their living conditions and inability to get help. She said that she had discussed the plan for self-immolation with them, but didn’t think they would go through with it. She accompanied them to La Moneda, where she begged them not to do it.
“They had nothing to eat and had already sold all of their furniture and were sleeping on the ground,” said Negrete."