Chile on edge as worst unrest in three decades claims 11 lives.

Latin America’s most prosperous country is braced for fresh upheaval after Chile’s president expanded a state of emergency beyond the capital and the death toll from three days of violence rose to 11.

“We are at war with a powerful and uncompromising enemy that respects nothing and no one,” Sebastián Piñera declared in an unyielding late-night address on Sunday.

Official statistics hinted at the scale of the turmoil unleashed by clashes and riots over the weekend: 1,554 arrests, more than 10,000 troops sent on to the streets and reports of at least 40 outbreaks of looting.

“It was a weekend of rage,” said Patricio Navia, a political scientist at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies in New York.

Protests in Chile against cost of living – in pictures

Read more

The convulsion comes days after Chile’s centre-right leader hailed his country as a haven of Latin American tranquility that was managing to avoid the economic and political strife blighting Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico, Brazil, Peru and Ecuador.

“Chile looks like an oasis,” the billionaire conservative boasted in an interview with the Financial Times (paywall).

The crisis began early last week as a youth revolt against a 3% increase in metro fares that the government was subsequently forced to scrap.

As outrage over those measures grew, student protesters stormed metro stations as part of a fare-dodging movement designed to pressure the government. On Friday, demonstrators torched at least a dozen stations, causing an estimated $300m (£230m) of damage.

Play Video


Chile: students ambush metro stations in mass fare-dodging protest over price hikes – video

But Paula Rivas, the president of the Metro Workers’ Union in the capital, Santiago, said the fare hike was not the driving force behind the mutiny.

“It’s the low pensions, the privatisation of water, the rise in electricity prices, the healthcare system, the need for equal education rights,” she said. “The metro fare was just the trigger, it is symbolic. It made people say, ‘enough’. We will not be silenced.”

Observers and protesters say the rebellion – the worst unrest Chile has faced since the dying days of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship three decades ago – is fuelled by deep-rooted disillusionment at how millions of citizens have been frozen out of the country’s economic rise.

“This isn’t because of the metro price – it is because the system is squeezing us like lemons,” said Bessy Gallardo Prado, a 34-year-old law student who has joined the protests.

“This is happening because of decades of injustice, abuse, and inequality. There is no social security in this country. People earn little and work a lot and wages are not enough to make ends meet.”

Navia, who is based in the Chilean capital, said unlike in other Latin American countries, public anger was not the product of worsening living conditions.

“Living conditions are in fact improving. Poverty levels are going down … Chile has been growing for most of the past decade,” he said. “The problem is that people perceive that wealth and opportunity are not evenly distributed. There isn’t a level playing-field.

“They feel like they are at the gates of the promised land. And they see all the elites inside having fun and enjoying the benefits of economic development – and they are not being let in.”

The Santiago mayor, Karla Rubilar, struck a conciliatory tone on Monday, calling for dialogue between authorities and demonstrators.

“We want the word of the day to be ‘rebuilding’ – rebuilding trust. Because we know it has been lost. Not during this government, but over many years,” she told reporters.

'This conflicted place made me who I am': Santiago, Chile – a cartoon

Read more

But many blame Piñera, who was elected in 2017 and is one of Chile’s richest men, for inflaming the situation with his uncompromising and inept response.

As Santiago descended into chaos last Friday and the state of emergency was declared, the president was photographed dining with his family at an upmarket restaurant. “Piñera eats pizza as Santiago burns,” one critic tweeted.

On Sunday night he caused further fury with a hardline address in which he claimed the country was “at war” with “evil” delinquents who were bent on causing chaos and destruction.

Navia said: “It was reminiscent of George W Bush … It is a provocation. When you tell protesters you are at war with them, they will go out and provoke you.”

He said Piñera’s administration appeared to believe the declaration of a state of emergency would extinguish the uprising – but many protesters were defying the government’s curfew.

“Things are tense and quiet [in Santiago] – almost like a public holiday,” Navia said. “But this could reignite in the coming days.”

Related news

Suspected middleman in Daphne Caruana Galizia murder arrested.

Maltese government may offer pardon if suspect can reveal mastermind behind killingA man suspected of being the middleman in the murder of Malta’s most prominent anti-corruption journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, has been arrested, a police sourc...

When is it too cold to go to work or school and what temperature does it have to be?.

TEMPERATURES across the UK have taken a tumble today with many of us waking up to sub-zero conditions. We explain what your rights are when it comes to taking a day off work because of the cold weather, and lay out the regulations your employer mu...

Murdered Brit Grace Millane was a member of BDSM sites and asked ex to choke her in bed, trial hears.

BRITISH backpacker Grace Millane was a member of multiple BDSM dating sites and allowed a former partner to choke her during sex, her murder trial heard today. But the man told police he and the 21-year-old used a system of safe words and signals ...

Nawaz Sharif Flown To London In «High-End» Air Ambulance After Court Nod.

Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif today left for London in an air ambulance for medical treatment for multiple diseases after the Lahore High Court allowed him to travel abroad for four...

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Urges Campus Protesters To Surrender.

Hundreds of mainly young protesters took over the campus at the weekend, holding off police assaults with a barrage of Molotov cocktails, bricks and arrows, in the most extreme expression of a popular...

Продовжуючи переглядати World News (UAZMI), ви підтверджуєте, що ознайомилися з Правилами користування сайтом, і погоджуєтеся на використання файлів cookie