Published: Sun, October 20, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Emergency in Chile as protests turn violent; 16 buses torched

Emergency in Chile as protests turn violent; 16 buses torched

Black-hooded protesters enraged by recent fare hikes on public transportation lit fires at several metro stations, looted shops, burned a public bus and swung metal pipes at train station turnstiles last Friday.

Subways stations, banks and buses have been torched and looting has broken out.

The general placed in charge of security, Javier Iturriaga, said some 500 soldiers are patrolling the streets.

Chileans angry over social and economic woes banged pots and pans Saturday in a noisy but peaceful continuation of violent protests that prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.

As midnight passed, President Sebastián Piñera announced a state of emergency in affected areas, allowing authorities to restrict rights to assembly and movement.

Gen. Iturriaga said the military would patrol major trouble spots in the city of seven million but would not impose a curfew at present.

The president also said that he would convene a working group to discuss ticket prices' Earlier this month, the government had increased fares by as much as $1.17 for a journey during peak hours, justifying the move by citing higher energy costs and a weaker peso.

Enel Chile, a subsidiary of Italian utility Enel, said vandals had set fire to the company's high-rise corporate headquarters downtown.

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Barricades were erected in several parts of the city and masked protestors armed with sticks and stones clashed with riot police, who repelled them with water cannon and tear gas.

Attacks on metro stations forced the closure of the entire subway system, which is the key form of public transport in the congested capital, carrying three million passengers a day.

"The entire network is closed due to riots and destruction that prevent the minimum security conditions for passengers and workers", the operator of the metro system wrote on Twitter.

Santiago's underground system is considered one of Latin America's most modern, with 140km (86 miles) of track and 136 stations.

Closure of the metro forced many Santiago residents to walk home, sometimes long distances, resulting in scenes of chaos.

In a radio interview, the Chilean president condemned the protesters saying, "This desire to break everything is not a protest, it's criminal".

Police already arrested 133 people on Thursday for vandalizing subway stations.

He said the government was "perplexed and dazed" by the eruption of violence, and this "must make us think about the quality of the intelligence services".

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