In Summary
  • Police and the military fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters in the city as clashes over price hikes and social inequality raged through a third day.
  • Firefighters said five people died in a garment factory burned by rioters in Renca, a northern suburb of Santiago.
  • But there is widespread frustration with economic policies that have virtually privatised all health care and education, at a time that falling pensions and rising costs of basic services have exacerbated social inequality.

Santiago,

Five people died Sunday when a garment factory was torched by looters near Chile's capital Santiago, bringing the death toll in a wave of unrest to seven as authorities expanded a state of emergency.

Police and the military fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters in the city as clashes over price hikes and social inequality raged through a third day.

Almost all public transport was paralysed in Santiago, with shops shuttered and many flights cancelled at the international airport, leaving thousands of people stranded and unable to leave due to the curfew.

After an emergency meeting late Sunday, President Sebastian Pinera defended his decision to call a state of emergency and deploy troops onto the streets for the first time since Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship between 1974-1990.

"Democracy not only has the right, it has the obligation to defend itself using all the instruments that democracy itself provides, and the rule of law to combat those who want to destroy it," Pinera said.

INCIDENTS
The state of emergency was extended on Sunday, with Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick saying new decrees were being drawn up for Antofagasta in the north, Valdivia in the south, and other cities such as Valparaiso, Temuco and Punto Arenas.

Firefighters said five people died in a garment factory burned by rioters in Renca, a northern suburb of Santiago.

Earlier, 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.

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

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

Firefighters extinguish a burning bus during clashes between protesters and the riot police in Santiago, on October 19, 2019. PHOTO | MARTIN BERNETTI | AFP

FARE INCREASE

Protesters set fire to buses, smashed up metro stations, knocked down traffic lights, ransacked shops and clashed with riot police in Santiago and other cities.

During the curfew from 7:00pm (2200 GMT) until dawn, people should "be calm and all in their homes," defence official General Javier Iturriaga announced.

What started earlier in the week as a protest against a hike in metro fares escalated dramatically on Friday as demonstrators expressed anger over social inequality and the government's liberal economic system.

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