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World Three dead as Chile suspends fare hike after week of rioting, arson and violent Metro protests

12:20  20 october  2019
12:20  20 october  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

Masses of Chileans jam capital in protest against government

  Masses of Chileans jam capital in protest against government Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched peacefully in Chile's capital Friday, intensifying pressure on a government struggling to contain deadly unrest over economic hardship. The huge throng surged toward a central plaza as participants blew whistles, banged pots and pans and carried Chilean flags and posters demanding change. The diverse crowd included students, workers, parents and their children.

Three people are dead as Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announces state of emergency and the suspension of a subway fare hike that had sparked violent riots . Week -long protests over a subway fare hike in Chile turned violent , with buses and train stations set alight. (AP: Esteban Felix).

Civil protests have taken place throughout Chile in response to a raise in the Santiago Metro 's subway fare , the increased cost of living, privatisation and inequality prevalent in the country.

Week-long protests over a subway fare hike in Chile turned violent, with buses and train stations set alight. © ABC News Week-long protests over a subway fare hike in Chile turned violent, with buses and train stations set alight.

Three people have been killed by a fire inside a Santiago supermarket that was ransacked as a second night of violent protests swept over Chile.

Two died at the scene early on Sunday morning and the other died after being taken to hospital, Mayor Karla Rubilar told local reporters.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has announced the suspension of a subway fare hike that had sparked violent student protests, less than a day after he declared a state of emergency amid rioting and commuter chaos in the capital.

Protests snarl public transportation in Chile, death toll hits 15

  Protests snarl public transportation in Chile, death toll hits 15 A hobbled metro system and damage to downtown streets snarled public transportation in the Chilean capital Santiago on Tuesday, following days of protests throughout the country that have left 15 dead and led to the arrest of 2,600, officials said. Thousands of people poured into Santiago's central squares on Monday to protest high living costs and inequality.As pressure mounted, Chile's centre-right President Sebastian Pinera said he would meet with opposition leaders on Tuesday to forge a "new social contract.

The protests were sparked by a rise in metro fares , which has since been suspended . Three people have been killed by a fire inside a supermarket in Santiago during a second night of protests in Chile . Two people died at the scene and another died in hospital after the store was looted

The protests were sparked by a rise in metro fares , which has since been suspended . Three people have been killed by a fire inside a supermarket in Santiago during a second night of protests in Chile . Two people died at the scene and another died in hospital after the store was looted

Despite Mr Pinera's lifting of the fare hike, subway and public transportation services remained suspended late on Saturday, and the state of emergency was still in place.

Authorities later imposed a curfew from 10pm Saturday to 7am Sunday (local time) in Santiago, with soldiers and tanks patrolling the streets in Santiago for the first time since the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet ended in 1990.

Police used tear gas as protesters flooded the streets of Chile's biggest cities. © ABC News Police used tear gas as protesters flooded the streets of Chile's biggest cities.

"I have heard with humility the voice of my compatriots," Mr Pinera said on Saturday before announcing that "we are going to suspend" the fare hike.

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The protest began on Monday when hundreds of students mobbed several Metro stations in Santiago, jumping over or dipping under turnstiles in a fare-dodging protest.

The students were angered over a 4 per cent increase in subway fares from the equivalent $US1.12 ($1.63) to $US1.16 ($1.69).

Chile doesn't produce its own oil and must import its fuel, leading to high prices for gasoline, electricity and elevated public transportation costs.

The Government said the fare increase was necessary because of rising energy costs and the devaluation of the country's currency and maintenance, but many Chileans are frustrated by rising prices.

By the end of the week the protests had turned violent with thousands of students burning subway stations and damaging dozens of others, and some set fire to a high-rise energy company building.

By Friday, thousands of students had hit the streets in Santiago, jumping turnstiles, burning barricades and vandalising train stations. © ABC News By Friday, thousands of students had hit the streets in Santiago, jumping turnstiles, burning barricades and vandalising train stations.

Officials reported 156 police officers and 11 civilians were injured and more than 300 people arrested.

On Friday, the operator of Santiago's subway system announced the suspension of service in all six of its lines, stranding hundreds of thousands of furious commuters.

Authorities said that in all, 78 stations along with infrastructure and equipment had been damaged in a system that has long been a point of pride for Chileans.

Mr Pinera vowed that those responsible for the violence were "going to pay for their deeds".

Army vehicles patrolled the street after a night of riots in Chile prompted a state of emergency to be declared. © ABC News Army vehicles patrolled the street after a night of riots in Chile prompted a state of emergency to be declared.

Near midnight, the conservative President declared a state of emergency in affected areas, allowing authorities to restrict rights to assembly and movement.

Despite the presence of soldiers and police, thousands of Chileans continued protesting in Santiago, not only against public transit fare hikes, but the price of electricity, water and medicine.

By late Saturday, protests had extended to another 20 cities, especially Valparaiso and Concepcion, where states of emergency were also declared.

Until Saturday, Chilean governments of left and right have been wary of bringing soldiers back into the streets since the end of a dictatorship during which thousands of suspected leftists were killed and dissent was ruthlessly crushed.

"Pinera's decision to deploy the military in Chile — a country that experienced a 17-year repressive dictatorship — is troubling and could further destabilise the situation," said Jenny Pribble, associate professor of political science at the University of Richmond.

"It also sends a message to Chileans that the parties of the right still see the military, and not democratic process, debate, and dialogue, as the ultimate solution to social conflict," she said.

Walmart said in a statement that 60 of its stores in Santiago and six other cities suffered looting.

Police repressed protesters with tear gas, while protesters had set up barricades and looted businesses.

The huge protests were sparked by a subway fare hike, which has since been suspended by the Chilean president. © ABC News The huge protests were sparked by a subway fare hike, which has since been suspended by the Chilean president.

At the San Jose de La Estrella metro station, mechanical engineer Hugo Millacoy Gonzalez, accompanied by his young son, said he was protesting the hike "so my son sees that they can't mock the people."

But others expressed fury at the commuter chaos and not being able to return to their homes.

If subway service is still suspended Monday, when many Santiago residents return to work and school, it would create further commuter chaos.

Santiago Metro director Louis De Granges said "there is still no clarity" on when subway service would return to normal.

A demonstrator in Santiago raises a sign that reads in Spanish © ABC News A demonstrator in Santiago raises a sign that reads in Spanish "This is not for 30 pesos in fare, it's the drop that overflows the glass".

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