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Chile president Sebastián Piñera declares state of emergency after violent protests

Chile president Sebastián Piñera declares state of emergency after violent protests”

The state of emergency, established by Chile's dictatorship-era constitution, grants the government additional powers to restrict freedom of movement and citizens' right to assembly.

The protest by students began on Monday when hundreds of young people mobbed several stations in Santiago, jumping over or dipping under turnstiles to protest a 4% increase in subway fares from about US$1 to US$1,16.

Television images showed students and others attacking police vehicles, throwing stones and burning at least one bus, along with scenes of destruction and shattered glass inside metro stations.

The protests continued after nightfall, with people clanging pots and blocking traffic.

Rozas said civilians were also injured during the protests, but he did not give a number.

The system was closed altogether on Saturday, and no one knows when it will reopen.

It was not immediately clear how many people had been detained or injured. Due to the emergency, the National Football Association has suspended matches this weekend.

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

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

High school and university students began the protest after the government hiked fares on October 6 by as much as $1.17 for a peak metro ride, blaming higher energy costs and a weaker peso.

Protestors erected barricades in various parts of the city and clashed with police, who used water cannon and tear gas in the most violent street battle seen in the Chilean capital for a long time.

The protests turned increasingly violent on Friday afternoon, however, and by early evening, officials had closed down all of the city's 136 metro stations, which connect more than 140 kilometres of track.

The fare hike was blamed on rising oil prices and a weaker peso.

Chile has the highest per capita income of Latin America at 20,000 dollars, with expected economic growth this year of 2.5 percent and just two percent inflation.

"I think social media explains the coordination and synchronized nature of the actions that destroyed infrastructure yesterday", said Santiago Marcelo Mella, an analyst at the University of Santiago.

"One gets the feeling that the government reacted too slowly", he said.



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