Chile protests: Cost of living protests take deadly toll

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The number of people killed in violent protests against rising living costs in Chile has risen to 11, Santiago Governor Karla Rubilar said on Monday.

At least five of those killed died after looters torched a garment factory near the capital. 

The military and police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters and a curfew was imposed in major cities.

A state of emergency already in place in Santiago is to be extended to cities in the country’s north and south.

The unrest, sparked by a now suspended metro fare hike, has widened to reflect anger over living costs and inequality. 

There is set to be major disruption on Monday with many banks, schools and shops expected to remain closed because of the unrest, the worst to hit one of Latin America’s most stable countries in decades. 

What is happening on the ground?

Firefighters say they found five bodies inside the garment factory burned by rioters in a suburb of Santiago. Three more people are also reported to have died on Sunday although no details have so far been given about the circumstances of their deaths. 

Earlier reports suggested three people had died in a supermarket fire in Santiago on Saturday, bringing the total of people killed since the protests started to 11. 

A demonstrator runs from tear gas during a protest against Chile's state economic model in Santiago October 20, 2019
Image captionSantiago has been seething with unrest

There had been 70 “serious incidents of violence”, including 40 lootings of supermarkets and other businesses. Two people also suffered gunshot wounds after a clash with police, officials say. 

“We’re facing a real escalation that is undoubtedly organised to cause serious damage to our country and the lives of each of its citizens,” Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick said.

Some 10,500 police and soldiers have been deployed to the streets, he added, while officials report more than 1,400 arrests.

In several cities on Sunday, protesters set more buses on fire, smashed up metro stations and clashed with riot police. A night-time curfew was imposed in the areas of Santiago, Valparaíso, Coquimbo and Biobío. 

A state of emergency will be applied to Antofagasta, Valparaíso, Valdivia, Chillán, Talca, Temuco and Punta Arenas, allowing authorities to restrict people’s freedom of movement and their right to assembly.

In Santiago, almost all public transport was suspended and some flights at the international airport were cancelled or rescheduled because of insufficient crew. 

Travellers rest in the Santiago de Chile airport where hundreds of passengers stranded overnight after their flights were cancelled due to curfew imposed in Santiago de Chile
Image captionHundreds of travellers have been affected by flight cancellations

At least one line of the city’s metro was expected to reopen on Monday after the entire system was closed on Friday because of damage.

What does the president say?

President Sebastián Piñera, a billionaire conservative, has been criticised for his response to the protests, the most severe crisis of his current term. 

In a TV speech, he said people who were causing fires, setting up barricades and looting were “criminals”.

“We’re very aware that [those behind the riots]have a degree of organization, logistics, typical of a criminal organization,” he said. “I call on all my compatriots to unite in this battle against violence and delinquency.”

Anti-government demonstrators protest against cost of living increases in Santiago
Image captionThe protests were sparked by a now suspended metro fare hike

Mr Piñera – who took office in March 2018 after having served as president between 2010 and 2014 – has deployed soldiers and tanks for the first time since 1990, when Chile returned to democracy after the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

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