Chile protests: Low Wages, Metro Fare Raised; Latest Updates

The military and police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters and a curfew was imposed in major cities.

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At least five of those killed died after looters torched a garment factory near the capital.

A state of emergency already in place in Santiago is to be extended to cities in the country’s north and south.

The unrest, sparked by a now suspended metro fare hike, widened to reflect anger over living costs and inequality.

Ahead of major disruption expected on Monday, Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera said the country was “at war” with a violent enemy.

Chile Protests
At least one line of the city’s metro was expected to reopen on Monday after the entire system was closed on Friday because of damage.

But the head of national security, Gen Javier Iturriaga, played down such talk.

After taking a helicopter flight over the city to assess the situation, he told journalists on Monday morning he was satisfied with the situation.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not at war with anyone,” he said. “I’m a happy man.”

What is happening on the ground?

Firefighters say they found five bodies inside the garment factory burned by rioters in a suburb of Santiago. Three more people are also reported to have died on Sunday although no details have so far been given about the circumstances of their deaths.

Earlier reports suggested three people had died in a supermarket fire in Santiago on Saturday, bringing the total of people killed since the protests started to 11.

There had been 70 “serious incidents of violence”, including 40 lootings of supermarkets and other businesses. Two people also suffered gunshot wounds after a clash with police, officials say.

Chile Protests
A state of emergency will be applied to Antofagasta, Valparaíso, Valdivia, Chillán, Talca, Temuco and Punta Arenas, allowing authorities to restrict people’s freedom of movement and their right to assembly.

“We’re facing a real escalation that is undoubtedly organised to cause serious damage to our country and the lives of each of its citizens,” Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick said.

Some 10,500 police and soldiers have been deployed on the streets, he added, while officials report more than 1,400 arrests.

In several cities on Sunday, protesters set more buses on fire, smashed up metro stations and clashed with riot police. A night-time curfew was imposed in the areas of Santiago, Valparaíso, Coquimbo and Biobío.

In Santiago, almost all public transport was suspended and some flights at the international airport were cancelled or rescheduled because of insufficient crew.

What does the president say?

Chile Protests
Protesters push a bicycle in front of a gate of the Santa Lucia subway station during a protest against the rising cost of subway and bus fares, in Santiago, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

Mr Piñera, a billionaire conservative, has been criticised for his response to the protests, the most severe crisis of his current term.

In a TV speech, he said people who were causing fires, setting up barricades and looting were “criminals”.

“We’re very aware that [those behind the riots] have a degree of organization, logistics, typical of a criminal organization,” he said. “I call on all my compatriots to unite in this battle against violence and delinquency.”

Mr Piñera – who took office in March 2018 after having served as president between 2010 and 2014 – has deployed soldiers and tanks for the first time since 1990, when Chile returned to democracy after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile and now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she was “deeply disturbed” by the violence in her home country.

She said all deaths must be independently investigated amid “disturbing allegations of excessive use of force by security and armed forces” – but also lamented injuries suffered by security forces.

“The use of inflammatory rhetoric will only serve to further aggravate the situation, and risks generating widespread fear,” she said.

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