The country has been shaken for three days by a violent social protest, caused by the rise in the price of metro tickets. Curfews and states of emergency are in effect in some areas.
“We are at war. “The words of Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, whose country has been shaken for three days by riots and looting that have killed seven people, the worst social explosion in decades, are particularly strong.
For the second consecutive night, a curfew was imposed in Santiago, the capital, between 7pm and 6am local time. The state of emergency is also in force in several regions, including the Santiago conurbation, which has a population of 7 million. It was extended Sunday evening to several major cities in the south and north of the country.
“We are at war with a powerful, relentless enemy who respects nothing and no one and is willing to use violence and delinquency without any limits,” President Sebastian Piñera told the press.
General Javier Iturriaga, who was in charge of public security on Friday by the Head of State, called on the inhabitants to remain “calm” and not to leave their homes.
7 dead, 10,000 police and soldiers deployed
The riots continued on Sunday. Clashes between demonstrators and police officers took place in the afternoon in central Santiago, while looting took place in several parts of the capital.
Five people were killed in the fire at a clothing factory that was being looted. “Five bodies were found inside the factory due to the fire”, in the northern part of the capital, announced to local media the Santiago fire brigade commander, Diego Velasquez.
Two people had already died in the night from Saturday to Sunday in the fire at a supermarket also looted by demonstrators in the south of the capital and a third had been wounded, his body burned “at 75%”, according to the authorities.
Two people were also shot and hospitalized in “serious” condition after an incident with the police during looting, also in the south of the capital, according to the same source.
Nearly 10,000 police and soldiers have been deployed. Military street patrols are the first in the country since the end of General Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship (1973-1990). According to the authorities, 1,462 people were arrested, including 644 in the capital and 848 in the rest of the country.
300 million dollars worth of damage in the subway
After three days of violence, the centre of the Chilean capital and other major cities, such as Valparaiso and Concepcion, offered faces of desolation: red lights on the ground, charred bus carcasses, looted and burned businesses.
Several hundred flights were cancelled at Santiago Airport during the curfew period. Thousands of passengers were stranded overnight in the terminal building.
Demonstrations began on Friday to protest against an increase – from 800 to 830 pesos (about 1,69$) – in the price of metro tickets in Santiago, South America’s most extensive network (87 miles) that carries about 3 million passengers daily.
Sebastian Piñera suspended the increase on Saturday. But demonstrations and violence continued, fuelled by anger at the socio-economic conditions and inequalities in a country praised for its economic and political stability, but where access to health and education is almost entirely in the private sector.
Dozens of supermarkets, vehicles and gas stations were ransacked or burned down. Buses and metro stations were particularly targeted. According to the government, 78 metro stations were damaged, some of which were completely destroyed.
This damage in the metro is estimated at more than 300 million dollars and a return to normal on some lines could take “months,” said Louis de Grange, president of the national public transport company, on Sunday.
“Chileans have had enough of injustices”
“It’s not just about the subway, it’s about everything. Chileans have had enough of injustices,” Manuel, a worker trying to reach his workplace on Sunday, told a local TV station.
A few rare buses circulated in the capital, forcing residents to rely on taxis and VTCs, whose prices were soaring.
However, some small shops have reopened as well as petrol stations where car queues were visible, with residents fearing further violence on Monday as students called for further demonstrations.
“From the outside, we could only see Chile’s successes, but inside, there are high levels of fragmentation, segregation. …] The youth got fed up and took to the streets to show their anger and disappointment,” Lucia Dammert, professor at the Unive, told AFP.