Chile: Violent clashes between protesters and security forces continue

News Desk

Sun 20 October 2019:

Chileans angry over social and economic issues clashed with security forces for a second day Saturday despite a state of emergency declared to quell the worst violence in years in one of Latin America’s most stable countries.

Authorities announced a curfew in Santiago starting at 0100 GMT Sunday, after protesters set buses on fire, burned metro stations and clashed with riot police in the city of seven million.

“Having analyzed the situation and the appalling actions that occurred today, I have made the decision to suspend freedoms and movement through a total curfew,” said Army General Javier Iturriaga, who is overseeing security during the state of emergency.

President Sebastian Pinera appealed to people taking to the streets, saying “there are good reasons to do so,” but calling on them “to demonstrate peacefully” and saying “nobody has the right to act with brutal criminal violence.”

The day had started with thousands of Chileans banging pots and pans in Santiago and other cities, reflecting broad anger over economic and social conditions, including a yawning gap between rich and poor.

Millions in damages

The unrest started as a fare-dodging protest against an increase in metro ticket prices, which increased from 800 pesos to 830 pesos ($1.13 to $1.17) for peak-time travel, following a 20-peso rise in January.

The government recently raised subway fares from about $1.12 to $1.16 due to rising fuel prices.

The head of the subway system, Louis De Grange, said the vandalism caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and said it was not clear when service could resume.

As a result, some 2.4 million people are likely to experience difficulties getting to work or school on Monday.

But clashes later erupted in Plaza Italia, ground zero of Friday’s violence, and outside the presidential palace.

Protesters again set buses on fire in downtown Santiago, leading to the suspension of services.

Chile has the highest per capita income of Latin America at $20,000, with expected economic growth this year of 2.5 percent and just two percent inflation.

But there is an undercurrent of frustration with rising health care and utility costs, low pensions and social inequality.

The metro fare hike served to wake up a society that was averse to violence after the horrors of the Pinochet dictatorship from 1973-1990, which left more than 3,200 people dead or missing, sociologists say.

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