This site uses cookies to improve your experience and to provide services and advertising. By continuing to browse, you agree to the use of cookies described in our Cookies Policy. You may change your settings at any time but this may impact on the functionality of the site. To learn more see our Cookies Policy.
OK
Dublin: 3 °C Monday 11 November, 2019
Advertisement

Chile extends state of emergency as unrest death toll hits seven

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

Demonstrators challenge soldiers as a state of emergency remains in effect in Santiago, Chile.
Demonstrators challenge soldiers as a state of emergency remains in effect in Santiago, Chile.
Image: Esteban Felix via PA

FIVE PEOPLE DIED yesterday when a garment factory was torched by looters near Chile’s capital Santiago, bringing the death toll in a wave of unrest to seven as authorities expanded a state of emergency.

Police and the military fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters in the city as clashes over price hikes and social inequality raged through a third day.

Almost all public transport was paralysed in Santiago, with shops shuttered and many flights cancelled at the international airport, leaving thousands of people stranded and unable to leave due to the curfew.

After an emergency meeting late Sunday, President Sebastian Pinera defended his decision to call a state of emergency and deploy troops onto the streets for the first time since Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship between 1974-1990.

“Democracy not only has the right, it has the obligation to defend itself using all the instruments that democracy itself provides, and the rule of law to combat those who want to destroy it,” Pinera said.

The state of emergency was extended yesterday, with Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick saying new decrees were being drawn up for Antofagasta in the north, Valdivia in the south, and other cities such as Valparaiso, Temuco and Punto Arenas.

Firefighters said five people died in a garment factory burned by rioters in Renca, a northern suburb of Santiago.

Earlier, Chadwick said two women burned to death after a store owned by US retail chain Walmart was set alight in the early hours of Sunday.

One victim, who authorities initially said had died in hospital, suffered burns on 75% of her body.

Escalating violence

Authorities reported 103 serious incidents throughout the country with 1,462 people detained — 614 in Santiago and 848 in the rest of the country.

Protesters set fire to buses, smashed up metro stations, knocked down traffic lights, ransacked shops and clashed with riot police in Santiago and other cities.

During the curfew from 7:00 pm (10pm Irish time) until dawn, people should “be calm and all in their homes,” defense official General Javier Iturriaga announced.

What started earlier in the week as a protest against a hike in metro fares escalated dramatically on Friday as demonstrators expressed anger over social inequality and the government’s liberal economic system.

On Saturday, Pinera announced he was suspending the fare increase.

Pinera acknowledged that those in the streets had “good reasons” to protest but called on them “to demonstrate peacefully”.

The appeal failed to prevent further rioting and looting.

“It’s really sad what’s happening, but the people are outraged because they’re not being listened to,” 26-year-old Antonia told AFP in central Santiago.

Dozens of protesters torched a building belonging to Chile’s oldest newspaper, El Mercurio, in Valparaiso on Saturday evening, while elsewhere a metro station, supermarkets and other stores were set on fire.

© – AFP 2019  

  • Share on Facebook
  • Email this article
  •  

About the author:

AFP

Read next:

COMMENTS (10)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel