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Chile: Airbnb tour that promised chance to 'live the revolution' pulled after outcry

The revolution will not be monetized, after all.

An Airbnb tour which invited tourists in Chile to “Live the Revolution” by visiting the square that has become a rallying ground for anti-government protests has been removed after prompting outrage.

The two-hour “experience” offered a tour of Santiago’s Plaza Italia, which has become ground zero for a wave of mass demonstrations over social and economic inequality.

Costing 19,000 Chilean pesos (£19), the excursion also included a bottle of water and protective eye goggles – a nod to those worn by protesters to shield themselves from birdshot and rubber-coated pellets shot by riot police.

It was promoted on Airbnb Experiences, a platform offering “one-of-a-kind activities hosted by locals” – but was withdrawn from the site on Tuesday after mounting criticism on social media.

Promotor Sesbastián Nieto told local media that he dreamt up the tour after noting foreign visitors’ fascination with the demonstrations.

“I realized that at the protests there are always lots of spectators, people taking photos,” he said. “Of course there is a backdrop of social issues – which is totally valid – but there’s also a playful element.”

Chileans responded with fury, with some claiming the tour was a violation of Airbnb’s safety policies, while others condemned its insensitivity. Airbnb did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The social struggle is NOT a business” read one tweet.

For nearly three months, hundreds of thousands of people have joined marches and rallies across Chile, calling for dramatic changes to the country’s economic and political system.

Security forces have been accused of a string of serious human rights abuses in their response to the unrest, which has left at least 26 people dead and thousands injured.

Last week, the UN human rights office said it had documented 345 cases in which people suffered eye injuries after being struck by lead pellets fired from police shotguns.

Plaza Italia in the capital Santiago has been the site of repeated clashes between protesters and police.

Rubble litters the square around a boarded-up metro station which was set alight by arsonists. The smell of tear gas lingers permanently in the air.

But the protests have also led to a proliferation of politically charged creativity, including impromptu public concerts and new political street art.

“Learn the social demands of the movement through the art of the protests” wrote Nieto on the now-defunct Airbnb page.

But the offer provoked a strong backlash from the country’s artistic community.

“I find it horrible that he’s trying to make money off this,” said Fab Ciraolo, the artist behind a mural of poet Gabriela Mistral donning a green feminist scarf and holding the black flag emblem of the protests.

Publicist Fran Sasso launched a non-profit tour, Chile Despertó – Chile Has Awakened – in collaboration with over 40 street artists and creatives, including Ciraolo.

“We made the tour to educate, not to profit,’’ said Sasso, who accused Nieto of copying her idea.

“Chileans are hurting every day that they have to protest. You shouldn’t make money off pain, or turn it into a spectacle,” she said.

Protester Mario Hans, 33, who has gone to Plaza Italia every day since the unrest began said he was uncomfortable at the idea that anyone would profit from Chile’s political uprising.

“This is a movement against capitalism, for equality,” he said. “The first goal here should be to inform, not to charge.”