Chile Reports First Coronavirus Death

A pedestrian wears a face mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in downtown Santiago, on March 20, 2020.  MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP
A pedestrian wears a face mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, in downtown Santiago, on March 20, 2020. MARTIN BERNETTI / AFP

 

An 83-year-old woman has became Chile’s first victim of the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities said Saturday.

Health Minister Jaime Manalich earlier in the day said that 103 new cases had been reported in the last 24 hours, taking the total to over 500.

In Latin America, only Brazil has registered more cases.

Of Chile’s cases, 33 have been hospitalized and 359 are in the capital Santiago, Manalich said.

While the government has advised people to stay indoors, no official quarantine measures have been announced.

Even so, the streets of Santiago have been largely deserted, and the now traditional Friday evening anti-government protests that began in October have attracted few demonstrators.

However seaside resorts in central Chile, around 100 kilometers from Santiago, have been full of people, causing concern among authorities.

Some local mayors have closed their towns to outsiders.

On Wednesday, President Sebastian Pinera declared a “state of catastrophe,” and the next day Congress voted to delay from April to October a referendum on changing the country’s dictatorship-era constitution.

Earlier this week Pinera closed Chile’s borders to foreigners.

 

AFP

Chile, Peru Close Borders As Latam Grounds Flights Over Coronavirus

Travellers await for their flights out of Peru on March 16, 2020 at the Jorge Chavez international airport in Callao, Lima, minutes before borders are closed. On March 15, 2020, President Martin Vizcarra announced a State of Emergency and a two-week nationwide home-stay curfew together with the closure of all borders on account of the coronarvirus, COVID-19, pandemia declared by the United Nations World Health Organization. Peru’s “index case”, detected two weeks ago was discharged today and so far no fatalities have been recorded of the 86 cases of Covid-19 detected in the country. Luka GONZALES / AFP.

 

Chile and Peru announced a total closure of their borders on Monday while Latin America’s largest airline said it was reducing operations by 70 percent as the region scrambled to stem the rapidly-spreading coronavirus pandemic.

Latin America has registered more than 800 cases and seven deaths, according to an AFP count, after the Dominican Republic became the latest nation to report a fatality.

“We’ve decided to close all our country’s terrestrial, maritime and aerial borders for the transit of foreigners,” said Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera.

The announcement came as Chile revealed on Monday its number of coronavirus cases had more than doubled since Sunday to 155.

Peru followed suit soon afterwards with President Martin Vizcarra announcing a two-week border closure from midnight, while Colombia announced it would close its borders until May 30.

Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay confirmed partial border closures. Paraguay also imposed overnight curfews.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced late Monday that his country would enter “collective quarantine.”

Latam Airlines said it was reducing operations by 70 percent, just four days after already cutting back by 30 percent.

“If these unprecedented travel restrictions increase… we’re not ruling out being forced to decrease our operations even more,” said the airline’s vice-president Roberto Alvo.

READ ALSO: US Begins First Human Trial Of Coronavirus Vaccine

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador bucked the trend, saying he would not ban public gatherings or stop greeting people with “hugs” until public health officials said otherwise.

– Stocks tumble –

Chile rolled out a number of coronavirus control measures as the central bank slashed interest rates by 75 basis points to 1.0 percent.

The move failed to stop the Santiago stock exchange closing down 14 percent, its worst fall in three decades.

Regional stocks were battered as the Sao Paulo exchange lost almost 14 percent, Buenos Aires fell nearly 10 percent and Colombia plummeted more than 15 percent.

Brazil’s currency fell below $0.20 for the first time ever, prompting an emergency government investment of almost 150 billion reals ($27.5 billion) into the economy.

Chile’s closed borders caused a problem for a quarantined cruise ship in the country’s deep south.

More than 200 passengers and crew aboard the Silver Explorer in the remote port of Caleta Tortel are in lockdown after six people tested positive for coronavirus.

Health authorities want to evacuate the other passengers back to their home countries, but may need special permission.

– Cuba helping Nicaragua –

Cuba said it was allowing a British cruise ship to dock despite five people on board testing positive for COVID-19 and nearly 40 others in isolation with flu-like symptoms.

“We are working around the clock to arrange evacuation flights from Cuba to the UK as soon as possible for passengers on the Braemar cruise ship,” a British foreign ministry spokesman said.

Cuba is also sending specialist doctors to Nicaragua to help the central American country treat COVID-19 patients.

Ecuador, which has seen 58 cases and two deaths, banned tourists from the Galapagos Islands on Monday while authorities in Rio de Janeiro used megaphones to order people at the beach to go home.

Rio’s Flamengo football club, the reigning Copa Libertadores champions, revealed that their Portuguese coach Jorge Jesus is the latest sports star to have tested positive for the virus.

The city’s famous Christ the Redeemer statue was also closed to the public.

Honduras announced a week-long lockdown to prevent people from going to work, using public transport or taking part in religious activities.

The Argentine government announced work exemptions for public and private employees of non-essential sectors, as well as parents with school-age children.

AFP

Crashed Chile Plane Had Emergency In 2016 – Air Force

Handout picture released by the Chilean Air Force in Punta Arenas, Chile, on December 12, 2019, showing landing gear of the C-130 Hercules transport plane, which disappeared late Monday with 38 people on board, recovered from the sea by search teams.   AFP

 

The Chilean Hercules C-130 plane that crashed on its way to Antarctica this week killing all 38 people on board suffered an emergency three years ago on the same route, the air force said on Saturday.

Following the plane’s disappearance after taking off from the southern city of Punta Arenas, local media broadcast a video showing emergency equipment including firefighters and ambulances waiting on the runway in the city’s airport in April 2016.

In a statement, the Chilean Air Force said the plane shown in the footage is the same one that crashed as it was crossing the Drake Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific en route to a Chilean airbase.

As it came to land at the base in Antarctica in 2016 “the crew realized that the left main gear of the aircraft did not travel to the down position and secure when activating the landing gear,” the statement said.

The pilot decided to turn back to Punta Arenas, using an alternate method to lower the landing gear and touching down uneventfully, the statement added.

The air force has previously said the crashed plane’s maintenance record was in order, but that it would investigate a WhatsApp audio message sent by a passenger to relatives that allegedly said the plane was having electrical problems.

Authorities say they have not ruled out anything as to the cause of the crash, which killed all 21 passengers and 17 crew aboard.

Debris from the plane was located in a 12 square mile (30 square kilometer) area in the Drake Passage, a storm-tossed body of water south of Cape Horn.

On Friday, remains of people killed in the crash were turned over to a coroner for identification.

AFP

Chile Confirms Finding Human Remains, Debris, From Missing Plane

Pilots get off a F-16 plane after combing waters off the southern tip of South America searching for the Chilean Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane that went missing with 38 people aboard, at Chabunco army base in Punta Arenas, Chile, on December 12, 2019.  PABLO COZZAGLIO / AFP

 

Chile confirmed Thursday that human remains and debris found by search ships are from a military plane reported missing with 38 people aboard, and the chances of finding survivors is “practically impossible.”

“The condition of the plane wreckage that was found makes it practically impossible that there are survivors from this air accident,” Air Force chief Arturo Merino told a news conference in the southern port of Punta Arenas.

Merino, flanked by Defense Minister Alberto Espina and other officials, confirmed reports that human remains had also been recovered from the sea.

“Along with the parts of the plane that have been found, human remains have been found that are most likely to be body parts of those travelling on the C-130,” Merino said.

Search teams have been combing waters off the southern tip of South America for any sign of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which disappeared late Monday.

Thirty-eight people — 21 passengers and 17 crew — were on board the plane headed to the Eduardo Frei base across the Drake Passage in the Antarctic.

Most were air force personnel, but also aboard were three people from the army, two from a private construction company and an official from a Chilean university.

Many of them were traveling to carry out logistical support tasks at the base, Chile’s largest in the Antarctic.

Officials said the debris was located in a 30 square kilometer area in the Drake Passage, where some 23 aircraft and 14 ships have been concentrating the search effort.

 Human remains 

On Wednesday, the governor of Chile’s far southern Megallanes region, Jose Fernandez, said rescuers had found human remains during the search for the plane.

“They told us that they had found other airplane debris as well as human remains from those on board,” Fernandez told reporters in provincial capital Punta Arenas, where many family members were gathering to be close to the rescue effort.

His comments came shortly after the air force issued a statement saying that, out of respect for family members, all information regarding remains would be “analyzed, validated and communicated” by the air force itself.

Earlier, the Chilean-flagged vessel Antarctic Endeavour located debris that “could be part of the remains of the sponges of the internal fuel tanks,” Air Force Commander Eduardo Mosqueira told a news conference.

He added that the wreckage was located around 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) from the plane’s last known position when it disappeared from radar screens at 6:13 pm (2130 GMT) Monday.

A Brazilian navy vessel has also recovered wreckage, some 280 nautical miles from the far southern Argentinian port of Ushuaia, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.

Search vessels and planes from the United States, Uruguay and Argentina were also combing nearly 385 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) around the plane’s last known position in the Drake Passage, a tempestuous body of water south of Cape Horn.

The Vatican said Pope Francis was following the situation closely and keeping the families of the missing in his prayers.

AFP

Chile Confirms Wreckage Found Is From Missing Plane

Handout picture released by the Chilean Air Force showing a part of a fuel tank, allegedly from the Chilean Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane that went missing in the sea with 38 people aboard, found at Drake Passage, near to Chile, on December 11, 2019. HO / Chilean Air Force / AFP

 

Chile confirmed on Thursday that human remains and debris found by search ships are from a military plane reported missing with 38 people aboard, and the chances of finding survivors is “practically impossible.”

“The condition of the plane wreckage that was found makes it practically impossible that there are survivors from this air accident,” Air Force chief Arturo Merino told a news conference in the southern port of Punta Arenas.

Merino, flanked by Defense Minister Alberto Espina and other officials, confirmed reports that human remains had also been recovered from the sea.

“Along with the parts of the plane that have been found, human remains have been found that are most likely to be body parts of those travelling on the C-130,” Merino said.

Search teams have been combing waters off the southern tip of South America for any sign of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which disappeared late Monday.

Thirty-eight people — 21 passengers and 17 crew — were on board the plane headed to the Eduardo Frei base across the Drake Passage in the Antarctic.

Most were air force personnel, but also aboard were three people from the army, two from a private construction company and an official from a Chilean university.

Many of them were traveling to carry out logistical support tasks at the base, Chile’s largest in the Antarctic.

Officials said the debris was located in a 30 square kilometer area in the Drake Passage, where some 23 aircraft and 14 ships have been concentrating the search effort.

 Human remains 

On Wednesday, the governor of Chile’s far southern Megallanes region, Jose Fernandez, said rescuers had found human remains during the search for the plane.

“They told us that they had found other airplane debris as well as human remains from those on board,” Fernandez told reporters in provincial capital Punta Arenas, where many family members were gathering to be close to the rescue effort.

His comments came shortly after the air force issued a statement saying that, out of respect for family members, all information regarding remains would be “analyzed, validated and communicated” by the air force itself.

Earlier, the Chilean-flagged vessel Antarctic Endeavour located debris that “could be part of the remains of the sponges of the internal fuel tanks,” Air Force Commander Eduardo Mosqueira told a news conference.

He added that the wreckage was located around 16 nautical miles (30 kilometers) from the plane’s last known position when it disappeared from radar screens at 6:13 pm (2130 GMT) Monday.

A Brazilian navy vessel has also recovered wreckage, some 280 nautical miles from the far southern Argentinian port of Ushuaia, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter.

Search vessels and planes from the United States, Uruguay and Argentina were also combing nearly 385 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) around the plane’s last known position in the Drake Passage, a tempestuous body of water south of Cape Horn.

The Vatican said Pope Francis was following the situation closely and keeping the families of the missing in his prayers.

AFP

Rescue Operation Ongoing For Missing Chile Military Plane

View of the airport in Punta Arenas, Chile, on December 10, 2019. Rescue planes and ships on Tuesday searched the open sea between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica for a Chilean Air Force plane that went missing with 38 people aboard. Pablo COZZAGLIO / AFP

 

Rescue planes and ships on Tuesday searched the open sea between the southern tip of South America and Antarctica for a Chilean Air Force plane that went missing with 38 people aboard.

The C-130 Hercules cargo plane vanished after departing an air base in the southern city of Punta Arenas Monday at 4:55 pm (19:55 GMT) en route to Chile’s Antarctic base of Eduardo Frei, officials said.

Contact was lost with the plane at 6:13 pm (2130 GMT), the Chilean Air Force said, adding that the plane had enough fuel to remain in the air for several hours beyond that time.

But seven hours after losing communication officials declared that the plane had crashed.

The pilot may have carried out an emergency ocean landing, said Eduardo Mosqueira, commander of the Fourth Brigade based in Punta Arenas, early Tuesday.

“All national and international air and maritime means available in the area are continuing the search” for survivors, the air force said in a statement Tuesday.

Aircraft and ships from Uruguay, Argentina and Chile have joined in the search, officials said.

Chilean President Sebastian Pinera cancelled his scheduled trip to Buenos Aires on Tuesday for the inauguration of Argentina’s new president Alberto Fernandez to monitor rescue operations from Santiago, government spokeswoman Karla Rubilar said.

He initially said that he would travel to Punta Arenas.

“We are doing everything humanly possible to find them despite extremely difficult conditions,” Pinera said.

– Good weather conditions –

The plane went missing while flying over the Drake Passage, a maritime route between South America and Antarctica frequently hit by some of the world’s worst weather.

However, the weather conditions “to fly were good, which is why the trip was planned,” said Francisco Torres, head of operations of Chile’s air force.

The planes and ships are searching within a 60-mile radius from where officials lost contact with the Hercules, Torres said.

Defense Minister Alberto Espina flew to Punta Arenas with Air Force chief Arturo Merino to coordinate the search and rescue mission.

“Believe me, we are using all human and material means at our disposal, with planes, ships, satellites, and foreign support to try to find them,” Espina told journalists. “We know that the conditions are very difficult.”

Brazil has sent a Polar exploration ship and two air force planes to join the search.

The names of those aboard the missing airplane were released Tuesday. Most were air force personnel, but also included three people from the army, two from a private construction company and an official from a Chilean university.

Many of them were traveling to carry out logistical support tasks at the Eduardo Frei base.

Air force officials said they were in contact with the families of those on the plane.

The plane did have an emergency positioning system, but it did not appear to be working during the early morning search, said Mosqueira.

The disappearance of the C-130 came as Chile struggles with nearly two months of protests over social and economic inequality, and against an entrenched political elite.

The nearly two-month crisis and its violent demonstrations have led to 26 deaths and more than 12,000 injuries, according to the Organization of American States.

In September 2011, a Chilean military plane with 21 people aboard crashed near Robinson Crusoe Island, in the Pacific some 700 kilometers west of the South American mainland. A popular TV show host was among the victims.

Chilean Military Plane Disappears With 38 People Onboard

The incident is the latest drama in a country where Chileans have for nearly two months protested social and economic inequality, as well as an entrenched political elite.

 

A Chilean military plane with 38 people aboard “lost radio communication” on Monday after taking off from the south of the country for a base in Antarctica, Chile’s Air Force said.

It said 17 of those aboard were crew and the other 21 were passengers.

A “dismayed” President Sebastian Pinera, whose country has been witnessing its worst civil unrest in decades, said in a tweet that he would fly to Punta Arenas along with Interior Minister Gonzalo Blumel.

Once there, they would meet up with Defense Minister Alberto Espina to monitor the search and rescue mission.

“A C-130 Hercules aircraft took off at 16:55 (19:55 GMT) from the city of Punta Arenas to the President Eduardo Frei Antarctic Base,” an Air Force statement said.

READ ALSO: Buhari, Fintiri, Two Other Governors Depart Abuja For Egypt

The Air Force said it declared a “state of alert” over the loss of communication at 6:13 pm with the plane, and had begun a rescue operation with aircraft and Chilean Navy vessels.

The four-engine plane had taken off from the Chabunco air base in Punta Arenas, about 1,873 miles (3,016 kilometers) south of Santiago.

It primarily carried out logistical support tasks and transferred personnel to the Antarctic base in order to inspect the base’s floating fuel supply pipeline and to carry out anticorrosive treatment of the facility.

The incident is the latest drama in a country where Chileans have for nearly two months protested social and economic inequality, as well as an entrenched political elite.

The crisis and its violent demonstrations have led to 26 deaths and more than 12,000 injuries, according to the Organization of American States.

 

AFP

Chile President To Lift State Of Emergency Amid Protests

Demonstrators clash with security forces during a demonstration in Valparaiso, Chile on October 27, 2019.  Raúl Goycoolea / AFP

 

Embattled Chilean President Sebastian Pinera announced on Sunday that a state of emergency that has lasted more than a week amid mass protests would be lifted at midnight.

The decision, just two days after more than a million people took to the country’s streets demanding economic and political change, comes after the equally unpopular week-long nighttime curfews ended on Saturday.

Authorities imposed both the state of emergency and curfews last weekend after Chile was rocked by its worst civil unrest in decades.

What originated as a student protest against a modest hike in metro fares quickly got out of control as demonstrations turned deadly.

A message on the presidency’s official Twitter account said the state of emergency, which had seen 20,000 soldiers and police deployed on the streets, would end “in all the regions and towns where it was established.”

This measure comes a day after Pinera said he’d “asked all ministers to resign in order to form a new government.”

“We are in a new reality,” Pinera said on Saturday. “Chile is different from what it was a week ago.”

The government has been struggling to craft an effective response to the protests and a growing list of economic and political demands that include Pinera’s resignation.

The breadth and ferocity of the demonstrations appeared to have caught the government of Chile — long one of Latin America’s richest and most stable countries — off guard.

By Saturday afternoon, the military presence in the capital Santiago had been already visibly reduced.

The week of unrest began with an initial burst of violence as protesters and looters destroyed metro stations, torched supermarkets, smashed traffic lights and bus stops, and erected burning street barricades.

At least 19 people died in the worst political violence since Chile returned to democracy after the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship from 1973-90.

AFP

Protest: UN To Probe Abuses In Chile

Riot police clash with demonstrators during protests in Santiago, on October 20, 2019. Pablo VERA / AFP

 

The United Nations said Thursday it would send a special mission to investigate human rights abuses in Chile, where a general strike went into its second day following a week of street protests that left 18 dead.

President Sebastian Pinera tried to ease tensions by announcing a plan to end a highly unpopular state of emergency and nighttime curfews.

“Having monitored the crisis in Chile since it began, I have decided to send a verification mission to examine the allegations of human rights violations,” the head of the UN Human Rights Council and former Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, said in a tweet.

The protests erupted on Friday, initially against a metro fare hike but spiraled into general discontent at low salaries and pensions, high costs of health care and education, and a yawning gap between rich and poor.

While much of it has been peaceful, metro stations were destroyed, supermarkets torched and looted, traffic lights and bus shelters smashed and countless street barricades erected and set alight.

Some 20,000 police and soldiers have been deployed in the city, using tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.

But they have also been responsible for five of the deaths, while social media have lit up with accusations of torture and abuses by the security forces.

Industrial action called by Chile’s most powerful union, the Workers’ United Center of Chile (CUT,) that began on Wednesday continued, but in central Santiago people seemed to be going to work as normal with shops and businesses opening their doors.

Overnight Wednesday was the calmest yet of five nigthtime curfews, while a two-week state of emergency is now in its sixth day.

“We’re working on a plan to normalize life in our country … to end the curfew and hopefully to lift the state of emergency,” Pinera said.

The national human rights institute (INDH) says 535 people have been injured — 239 by firearms — and 2,410 detained.

Nine of the deaths came in fires started by looters.

‘Increased polarization’ 

“What President Pinera has done up until now is increase polarization and tension in the country,” CUT president Barbara Figueroa told journalists.

“We have youngsters in the streets with a gun in their hands pointed at their own compatriots.”

While the situation was largely peaceful in the capital the past two days, tensions have remained high in other areas, such as Santiago’s suburbs.

As soldiers guarded Santiago’s metro stations many of the city’s seven million inhabitants returned to normality for the first time since the crisis erupted.

Three of the seven metro lines — which usually carry three million people a day — were operating on Thursday, backed up by 6,000 buses.

Most of the supermarkets that had remained closed on Wednesday opened their doors and almost all schools in the capital held classes.

On Wednesday, four hotels were looted and residents wearing yellow vets patrolled their own neighborhoods to guard against burglary.

In the central Valparaiso region toll booths on the road that connects it to Santiago were attacked while some protesters blocked major motorways in the southern Araucania region.

 Lack of focus and leadership 

Chile, usually one of the most stable countries in Latin America, has seen its worst violence since returning to democracy after the 1973-1990 right-wing dictatorship led by General Augusto Pinochet.

But the protests lack a clear focus or recognizable leadership.

“This is the whole country’s complaint, we’re fed up,” shouted one protester over the din of pots and pans being banged in front of soldiers.

In an address to the nation late on Tuesday, Pinera apologized for failing to anticipate the outbreak of social unrest and announced a raft of measures aimed at placating demonstrators.

He promised to increase the universal basic pension by 20 percent, cancel a recent 9.2 percent increase in electricity bills and introduce legislation to cut health service costs.

He also vowed to increase the minimum wage, reduce parliamentary expenses and cut high public sector salaries.

“We were hoping that this time of social conflict would increase sensitivity but these are the same proposals as months ago,” said Izkia Siches, president of Chile’s school of medicine, who took part in the strike.

In a poll by Ipsos, two-thirds of respondents said their economic, health and pensions situation was “unequal and unfair.”

Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera told reporters next month’s APEC trade summit would go ahead despite the protests.

US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping are among those expected to attend the November 16-17 meeting to discuss ending their trade war.

AFP

Chile Protest: Child Killed As Toll Rises To 18

Photo released by Aton of demonstrators lighting bonfires in Vaparaiso, Chile, on October 19, 2019.  AFP

 

A four-year-old child was killed during the latest round of protests in Chile, raising the death toll from five days of social unrest to 18, a top Chilean security official said Wednesday.

The child and an adult man were killed Tuesday when a drunk driver rammed into a crowd of protesters, Interior Undersecretary Rodrigo Ubilla said. A third person died from injuries sustained in a beating by police, according to the victim’s family.

AFP

Death Toll In Chile Violent Protest Rises To 11

Soldiers shoot at demonstrators during protest in Valparaiso, Chile, on October 21, 2019. JAVIER TORRES / AFP

 

Chile’s death toll has risen to 11, authorities said on Monday, after three days of violent demonstrations and looting that saw President Sebastian Pinera claim the country was “at war.”

Almost 1,500 people were detained in the worst outbreak of social unrest in decades while the capital Santiago was placed under curfew for two nights running.

“We are at war against a powerful, implacable enemy, who does not respect anything or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits,” Pinera told reporters on Sunday after an emergency meeting with army general Javier Iturriaga, who has been placed in charge of order and security in the capital.

Karla Rubilar, the governor of the Santiago region, said eight people had died on Sunday and three on Saturday — all in the Santiago metropolitan area.

Santiago and nine more of Chile’s 16 regions were under a state of emergency, Pinera confirmed late on Sunday, with troops deployed onto the streets for the first time since Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship between 1973-1990.

The clashes, which have seen some 9,500 police and military fire tear gas and water cannon against protesters who have set fire to buses, smashed up metro stations and ransacked shops, were initially sparked by anger over metro fare hikes and wider social inequality.

Long queues formed at shops, service stations and bus stops while the Santiago metro service, suspended on Friday as protesters burned and vandalized stations, was partially running again on Monday as some people returned to work.

In Santiago, many employers canceled the working day, while most schools and universities remained closed.

Iturriaga told reporters the capital was “peaceful and calm,” adding that 17 supermarkets were open as well as service stations and pharmacies.

He took a different line to the president, though, and added: “I feel happy, I’m not at war with anyone.”

Soldiers, though, patrolled outside metro stations and military vehicles were parked in streets near the presidential palace as tensions remained high.

Anger boiled over 

Despite a growth rate that should reach 2.5 percent of GDP this year, several social indicators — such as health, education and pensions — show very high inequalities.

Anger boiled over earlier in the week as a protest against a rise in metro fares escalated dramatically on Friday.

“You could see this coming. The government hasn’t done anything. It’s not just the metro fare that triggered this and ended in vandalism,” sandwich seller Carlos Lucero, 30, told AFP.

He said the government needed to take concrete measures “to improve salaries, health, pensions.”

On Sunday, five people died when a garment factory was torched by rioters in a Santiago suburb, despite right-wing Pinera’s Saturday announcement that he was suspending the fare increase.

Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said two women burned to death after a store owned by US retail chain Walmart was set alight in the early hours of Sunday.

Almost all public transport was paralyzed in Santiago on Sunday, with shops shuttered and many flights canceled at the international airport, leaving thousands of people stranded due to a curfew imposed from 7:00 pm until dawn.

 ‘Listen to the people’ 

Authorities reported 103 serious incidents throughout the country with 1,462 people detained — 614 in Santiago and 848 in the rest of the country.

In some neighborhoods, residents donned the yellow vests made popular by French protesters earlier this year, and wielded sticks vowing to protect their homes, local shops and supermarkets.

“There were some attempted robberies in this area so we got organized to defend ourselves,” Priscila, from eastern Santiago, told Canal 24 Horas.

Several international Chilean footballers have also asked leaders in their country to “listen to the people” and to find solutions.

“I pray that my beloved Chile will be better,” national team star and Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal wrote on Sunday night.

Among the buildings torched and damaged in the violence were the headquarters of the ENEL Chile power company and a Banco Chile branch — both in the center of Santiago — and Chile’s oldest newspaper, El Mercurio, in Valparaiso.

 Social tensions erupt 

Louis de Grange, president of the state Metro S.A. company, told Canal 13 the “brutal destruction” of Santiago’s metro service — South America’s largest and most modern, used by around three million people a day — had caused more than $300 million in damage.

The proposed hike in fares would have raised the price of peak hour travel from 800 to 830 pesos ($1.11 to $1.15).

The government said the rise, which followed a 20-peso increase in January, was driven by rising oil prices and a weakening peso.

Initially, students and others responded by fare-dodging, but underlying social tensions quickly bubbled to the surface.

Although Chile has the highest per capita income of Latin America at $20,000, there is widespread frustration at privatized health care and education, rising costs of basic services and falling pensions.

AFP

Chile Extends State Of Emergency As Protest Death Toll Hits Seven

The police arrest a demonstrator during clashes between protesters and the police in Santiago, on October 20, 2019. Fresh clashes broke out in Chile’s capital Santiago on Sunday after two people died when a supermarket was torched overnight as violent protests sparked by anger over economic conditions and social inequality raged into a third day. PHOTO: CLAUDIO REYES / AFP

 

Chile is “at war”, President Sebastian Pinera said Sunday, as the country reels from three days of violent demonstrations and looting that have left seven dead and almost 1,500 detained in the worst outbreak of social unrest in decades.

“We are at war against a powerful, implacable enemy, who does not respect anything or anyone and is willing to use violence and crime without any limits,” Pinera told reporters after an emergency meeting with army general Javier Iturriaga, who has been placed in charge of order and security in the capital.

Santiago and nine other of Chile’s 16 regions were under a state of emergency, Pinera confirmed late Sunday, with troops deployed onto the streets for the first time since Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship between 1973-1990.

Riot police clash with demonstrators during protests in Santiago, on October 20, 2019. PHOTO: Pablo VERA / AFP

 

The clashes, which have seen some 9,500 police and military fire tear gas and water cannon against protesters who have set fire to buses, smashed up metro stations and ransacked shops, were sparked by anger over price hikes and social inequality.

Despite a growth rate that should reach 2.5 percent of GDP this year, several social indicators — such as health, education and pensions — show very high inequalities.

“Many latent requests have not been answered, tension has built up, frustration has increased daily in daily life,” said Octavio Avendano, a sociologist and political scientist at the University of Chile.

This anger boiled over earlier in the week as a protest against a rise in metro fares escalated dramatically on Friday.

On Sunday, five people died when a garment factory was torched by rioters in a Santiago suburb, despite right-wing Pinera’s Saturday announcement that he was suspending the fare increase.

Earlier, Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick said two women burned to death after a store owned by US retail chain Walmart was set alight in the early hours of Sunday.

Another victim, who authorities initially said had died in hospital, suffered burns on 75 percent of her body.

Almost all public transport was paralysed in Santiago on Sunday, with shops shuttered and many flights canceled at the international airport, leaving thousands of people stranded due to a curfew imposed from 7:00 pm until dawn.

‘Listen to the people’

Authorities reported 103 serious incidents throughout the country with 1,462 people detained — 614 in Santiago and 848 in the rest of the country.

“It’s really sad what’s happening, but the people are outraged because they’re not being listened to,” 26-year-old Antonia told AFP in central Santiago.

Several international Chilean football players have also asked leaders in their country to “listen to the people” and to find solutions.

“I pray that my beloved Chile will be better,” Chilean star Arturo Vidal, the Barcelona midfielder, wrote on Sunday night.

On Friday, the headquarters of the ENEL Chile power company and a Banco Chile branch — both in the center of Santiago — were set on fire and heavily damaged.

Dozens of protesters torched a building belonging to Chile’s oldest newspaper, El Mercurio, in Valparaiso on Saturday evening, while elsewhere a metro station, supermarkets and other stores were set on fire.

Social tensions erupt

Santiago’s metro system — South America’s largest and most modern and used by around three million people a day — was shut down on Friday as protesters burned and vandalized stations.

Louis de Grange, president of the state Metro S.A. company, told Canal 13 the “brutal destruction” of the service had caused more than $300 million in damage.

The hike in fares that set off the violence would have raised the price of peak hour travel from 800 to 830 pesos ($1.13 to $1.15).

The government said the hike, which followed a 20-peso increase in January, was driven by rising oil prices and a weakening peso.

Initially, students and others responded by fare-dodging, but underlying social tensions quickly bubbled to the surface.

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

Yet there is widespread frustration with economic policies that have virtually privatized all health care and education, at a time that falling pensions and rising costs of basic services have exacerbated social inequality.

AFP