Chile: protests rage on as president extends state of emergency

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Seven dead as protesters loot supermarkets one day after Sebastián Piñera suspends price hikes that sparked unrest

Staff and agency

A riot policeman shoots tear gas during protests in Concepcion, Chile Photograph: Pablo Hidalgo/AFP via Getty Images

Protests and violence in Chile have spilled over into a new day and left at least seven people dead despite the president cancelling a subway fare increase that prompted the violent demonstrations.

Santiago and other Chilean cities have been engulfed by several days of riots, along with peaceful protests, after the increase in public transport costs. Authorities said seven people had been killed in incidents related to the protests, without giving further details.

Violence flared again on Sunday, including the looting of 40 supermarkets and other businesses.

The worsening unrest prompted president Sebastián Piñera to extend a state of emergency to cities in its north and south.

“We are at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without any limits,” Piñera said in a late-night televised statement at army headquarters in Santiago.

Pinera said Santiago’s metro and bus system would operate a partial service on Monday, along with hospitals and some schools and crèches, and appealed for Chileans to band together and help their neighbors to get on with their lives and remain safe.

“Tomorrow we will have a difficult day,” he said. “We are very aware that (the perpetrators of riots) have a degree of organisation, logistics, typical of a criminal organisation,” he said.

“Today is not the time for ambiguities. I call on all my compatriots to unite in this battle against violence and delinquency,” he said.

At least two airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights into the capital, affecting more than 1,400 passengers on Sunday and Monday.

Piñera, facing the worst crisis of his second term as head of the South American country, announced on Saturday night that he was cancelling a subway fare hike imposed two weeks ago.

Piñera said in a national address broadcast from the presidential palace in Santiago late on Saturday that he had listened “with humility” to “the voice of my compatriots” and to discontent over the cost of living in one of Latin America’s wealthiest yet most unequal nations. He also announced a working group to address their concerns.

The fare boost had led to major protests that included rioting that caused millions of dollars in damage to burned buses and vandalised subway stops, office buildings and stores.

After meeting with the heads of the legislature and judicial system on Sunday, Piñera said they discussed solutions to the current crisis and that he aims “to reduce excessive inequalities, inequities abuses, that persist in our society.”

Jaime Quintana, president of the senate, said that “the political world must take responsibility for how we have come to this situation.”

Interior minister Andrés Chadwick reported that seven people had died during the demonstrations and that 62 police officers and 11 civilians were injured in the latest disturbances and prosecutors said nearly 1,500 people had been arrested.

With transportation frozen, Cynthia Cordero said she had walked 20 blocks to reach a pharmacy to buy diapers, only to find it had been burned.

“They don’t have the right to do this,” she said, adding it was right to protest “against the abuses, the increases in fares, against bad education and an undignified pension, but not to destroy.”

Long lines formed at petrol stations as people tried to fill up for a coming week with a public transport system depleted by the destructive protests.

Subway system chief Louis De Grange said workers would try to have at least one line running by Monday, but he said it could take weeks or months to have the four others back in service.

 

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