Chile's president declares state of emergency in capital Santiago

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By Daniel Bellamy  & Sofía Sánchez  with Reuters
Chile's president declares state of emergency in capital Santiago

Chile's President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency in the capital Santiago de Chile as protests against a rise in the cost of public transport escalated. Troops were patrolling the streets of the Chilean capital on Saturday to contain the demonstrations.

The avenues that reach the central Plaza Italia in Santiago de Chile were cut by tanks, a method used by the army to try to repel the confrontations that were taking place.

This is the first day of citizen protest under the state of emergency decreed by the government as a measure to contain the violent riots in which the demonstrations against the rise in the price of the Santiago subway derived.

This increase in price ignited the fuse of the general discontent of part of Chilean society due to the inequality registered in the country.

In the capital, the authorities have so far reported five burnt-out urban buses and one burning subway station.

A demonstrator kicks a tear gas canister during a protest against the increase in subway ticket prices in Santiago, Chile,REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

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

"The objective of this state of emergency is very simple but very serious: to ensure public order, to ensure the peace of residents of the city of Santiago," Piñera said in a televised address to the nation.

Protests began earlier this week as a campaign by high school students, who began jumping over subway turnstiles after fares were raised a second time this year.

At rush hour the price of the ticket reaches 830 Chilean pesos, which is equivalent to 1.17 dollars, instead of 1.13 that it used to cost. However, the salary of 70% of the Chilean population does not reach 770 dollars a month.

Santiago's mayor, Felipe Alessandri, said the city is facing an "unprecedented" situation that caused over €1.25 billion worth of damage. "The situation is chaotic, and that we ask the president of the Republic to take all the necessary measures to maintain order and security," the mayor said.

One student was reported to have been killed by the police and another wounded by rubber bullets during the clashes.