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Chile orders new curfew as unrest death toll hits 11

The unrest started after protests against a public transport price hike escalated.

chile Police used tear gas and streams of water to break up protests on one of Santiago’s main streets. PA Images PA Images

CHILE’S GOVERNMENT HAS ordered an overnight curfew for the third day in a row as violent protests and looting raged on into the working week.

Army general Javier Iturriaga announced the curfew would last from 8pm to 6am as protests originally against a hike in metro fares turned into anger at President Sebastian Pinera and the military.

Iturriaga insisted the curfew was “necessary” despite thousands of people demonstrating peacefully in the capital. 

However, hundreds of people have defied the emergency decree and confronted police in Chile’s capital Santiago, continuing disturbances that have left at least 11 dead and led the president to say the country is “at war”.

Police used tear gas and streams of water to break up the march of students and union members on one of Santiago’s main streets, but demonstrators later reformed elsewhere.

Meanwhile, police and soldiers guarded long queues of Chileans who lined up at supermarkets that had reopened. Many remained closed after a weekend that saw scores of stores looted or burned.

Only one of the city’s six subway lines was operating because rioters had burned or damaged many of the stations, and officials said it could take weeks or months to fully restore service.

Two million students were forced to stay home from classes and many people were unable to reach jobs.

chile-protests Students and trade union group members gather for a demonstration in Santiago, Chile. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

Conservative President Sebastian Pinera said on Sunday that the country is “at war with a powerful, relentless enemy that respects nothing or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits”, although he did not say who the enemy was.

But his left-leaning rival, former president Michelle Bachelet, issued a statement calling for dialogue and urging all sides to work “toward solutions that contribute to calming the situation”.

Now the UN high commissioner for human rights, she called for an investigation into all acts, by government or protesters, “that have caused injuries and death”.

The protests have shaken and surprised a nation noted for economic stability over the past decades, which has seen steadily declining poverty despite persistent high rates of inequality.

They were triggered by a relatively minor increase in subway fares of less than 4%, but analysts said they were fed by frustration over a long-building sense that many Chileans were not sharing in the nation’s advances.

“People went out to protest because they feel the government cares more about the wealthy and that social programmes help the very poor, but the rest of the population is left to care for themselves,” said Patricio Navia, a professor at the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University.

“They are not poor enough to get government subsidies nor rich enough to get government tax credits. They revolted to make their voice heard,” he added.

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