Chile rolls back sub­way fare hike amid protests

The Korea Times - - WORLD -

SAN­TI­AGO (AP) — Chilean Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era on Satur­day an­nounced the sus­pen­sion of a sub­way fare hike that had prompted vi­o­lent stu­dent protests, less than a day af­ter he de­clared a state of emer­gency amid ri­ot­ing and com­muter chaos in the cap­i­tal.

Sol­diers pa­trolled the streets in San­ti­ago for the first time since the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship of Gen. Au­gusto Pinochet ended in 1990, sum­moned to keep order fol­low­ing protests over a rise in sub­way fares from the equiv­a­lent $1.12 to $1.16. Sub­way ser­vice had been sus­pended in the cap­i­tal since late Fri­day.

“I have heard with hu­mil­ity the voice of my com­pa­tri­ots,” Pin­era said be­fore an­nounc­ing that “we are go­ing to sus­pend” the fare hike.

It was un­clear if the roll­back would end the demon­stra­tions and ri­ot­ing.

The protest by stu­dents be­gan on Mon­day when hun­dreds of young peo­ple mobbed sev­eral metro sta­tions in San­ti­ago, jump­ing over or dip­ping un­der turn­stiles in a fare-dodg­ing protest against the 4% in­crease in fares.

Chile doesn’t pro­duce its own oil and must im­port its fuel, lead­ing to high prices for gaso­line, elec­tric­ity and el­e­vated pub­lic trans­porta­tion costs. The govern­ment said the fare in­crease was nec­es­sary be­cause of ris­ing en­ergy costs, the de­val­u­a­tion of the coun­try’s cur­rency and main­te­nance. But many Chileans are frus­trated by ris­ing prices.

By the end of the week the protests had turned vi­o­lent with thou­sands of stu­dents burn­ing sub­way sta­tions and dam­ag­ing dozens of oth­ers, and some set fire to a high-rise en­ergy com­pany build­ing. Of­fi­cials re­ported 156 po­lice of­fi­cers and 11 civil­ians in­jured and more than 300 peo­ple ar­rested.

On Fri­day, the oper­a­tor of San­ti­ago’s sub­way sys­tem an­nounced the sus­pen­sion of ser­vice in three of its six lines. Later Fri­day, it an­nounced the sus­pen­sion of all six, strand­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of fu­ri­ous com­muters.

Au­thor­i­ties said that in all, 78 sta­tions along with in­fra­struc­ture and equip­ment had been dam­aged in a sys­tem that has long been a point of pride for Chileans.

The con­ser­va­tive Pin­era vowed that those re­spon­si­ble for the vi­o­lence “are go­ing to pay for their deeds.”

Near mid­night, Chile’s con­ser­va­tive pres­i­dent de­clared a state of emer­gency in af­fected ar­eas, al­low­ing au­thor­i­ties to re­strict rights to assem­bly and move­ment. Sol­diers were de­ployed in the streets.

De­spite the pres­ence of sol­diers and po­lice, thou­sands of Chileans con­tin­ued protest­ing in­clud­ing in cities out­side San­ti­ago, not only against pub­lic tran­sit fare hikes, but the price of elec­tric­ity, wa­ter and medicines.

AFP-Yon­hap

A burnt metro sta­tion is seen af­ter protests in San­ti­ago, Satur­day. Chilean Pres­i­dent Se­bas­tian Pin­era an­nounced the sus­pen­sion of the in­crease in the price of metro tick­ets which trig­gered vi­o­lent protests.

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