The Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, has declared a state of emergency in Santiago and has given a soldier the responsibility of ensuring security.
Santiago de Chile was the scene of violent clashes for a good part of the day between the police and demonstrators on Friday, October 18, which led Chilean President Sebastian Pinera to declare the state emergency in the capital. These riots, born of protests against rising transport prices, forced the authorities to close all metro stations.
"I have declared a state of emergency and, to that end, I have appointed Major General Javier Iturriaga del Campo as head of national defense, in accordance with the provisions of our state of emergency legislation. "said Sebastian Pinera in a message to the government palace.
Clashes erupted as night fell, and the Enel utility building and a Banco Chile branch, both in the city center, were set on fire. The Enel building fire, lit by "A group of strangers" according to the company, began with the security stairs before spreading in several floors. Firefighters, however, reported after about an hour of effort that the fire was in the control phase, and no employees were injured.
A nearby supermarket was also looted and several metro stations were attacked with Molotov cocktails.
Closing of the metro this weekend
Before the metro stations were closed, calls to get on the trains without ticket had circulated, to protest against the increase in the price of metro tickets, from 800 to 830 pesos (1.04 euro) in the hours of peak, after already a first increase of 20 pesos last January.
"The entire network is closed due to riots and destruction that prevent minimum security conditions for passengers and workers"The metro manager announced on Twitter, after attacks against almost all 164 stations, where many barriers and turnstiles were destroyed.
Public transport is widely used in Santiago, a highly polluted and congested city. The Santiago Metro, the largest (140 km) and most modern in South America, which carries about 3 million passengers per day, is expected to remain closed this weekend and could reopen gradually next week. Many Santiago residents have had to walk home, sometimes walking long distances, causing scenes of chaos and despair.
In various parts of the city, protesters erected barricades and clashed with police, who used water cannons and tear gas, the most long-standing street battle scenes in the Chilean capital. President Sebastian Pinera called the protesters delinquents. "This desire to break everything is not a protest, it's criminal", he said in an interview on the radio.
Thursday, 133 people had been arrested for damage in the metro stations, where the damage amounted to 400 to 500 million pesos (630,000 euros) according to the manager.