President extends state of emergency after riots

Carabineros observes protesters during a protest against cost of living increases on October 20, 2019 in Santiago, Chile. Protests had begun on Friday and developed into looting and arson, generating chaos in Santiago, Valparaiso and a dozen of other cities.Agencia Makro | Getty Images News | Getty ImagesChile’s government extended a state of emergency to several cities across the country, after a weekend of violent clashes, looting and arson attacks.Five people were reported to have died on Sunday, after looters set a factory ablaze in a northern suburb of Santiago, the country’s capital city. It brings the death toll from violent protests to at least seven, Chile’s interior minister said Sunday.A proposed hike in public transport fares, which has now been suspended, sparked nationwide protests last week. The demonstrations have since widened to reflect public anger at rising living costs and income inequality in one of Latin America’s wealthiest countries.The military and police used tear gas and a water cannon against protesters over the weekend, with a night-time curfew also placed on residents in major cities.”We are at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without limits,” President Sebastian Pinera said during a televised statement on Sunday, according to Reuters.Pinera also said that the state of emergency he declared in Santiago on Saturday would be extended to cities in the north and south of the country.It marks the first time since Chile returned to democracy in 1990 that the government has declared a state of emergency because of civil unrest in the capital.What’s the background?The interior minister, Andres Chadwick, said Sunday that 62 police officers and 11 civilians had suffered injuries in the latest bout of violence, with almost 1,500 people arrested.Chadwick cited 70 “serious incidents of violence” on Sunday and said military and police numbers were at 10,500 in Santiago.In several cities across the country, protesters set buses on fire, targeted metro stations and clashed with riot police.Soldiers patrol the streets of Concepcion, Chile, on October 20, 2019, during protests.PABLO HIDALGO | AFP | Getty ImagesThe unrest means that, in addition to Santiago, a state of emergency will now be imposed on the cities of Antofagasta, Chillan, Punta Arenas, Talca, Temuco, Valdivia and Valparaiso. The measure will allow authorities to restrict people’s freedom of movement.Among OECD nations, Chile ranks as one of the worst for economic inequality. The government brought in tax reforms in 2014 to help reduce income inequality, but the long-term impact of these reforms remains to be seen.Meanwhile, after growing at a rate of 4% in 2018, Chile has seen its gross domestic product (GDP) fall to 1.8% in the first half of 2019. That’s largely because of a challenging external context, adverse climatic conditions and a delay in some government reforms, according to the World Bank.

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