President announces order in televised address after fare-dodging protest by students in capital widens
A state of emergency has been declared in the Chilean capital after simmering protests against a rise in metro fares spilled out into widespread vandalism and violence fuelled by rising cost-of-living pressures.
As ordained by Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution, the state of emergency will apply to Santiago and can last for 15 days. It grants the government additional powers to restrict citizens’ freedom of movement and their right to assembly. Ominously, soldiers will return to the streets for the first time since an earthquake devastated parts of the country in 2010.
“The aim is to ensure public order and the safety of public and private property,” President Sebastián Piñera said in a televised address, “There will be no room for violence in a country with the rule of law at its core.”
On Friday evening, the palm trees in Santiago’s colonial Plaza de Armas were shrouded in plumes of tear gas thrown by police agents to disperse protesters, and the headquarters of Italian energy company Enel were engulfed in orange flames as the sounds of helicopters and wailing sirens filled the night sky.