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Chilean president declares state of emergency after riots sweep Santiago

CHILE (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Chilean President Sebastian Pinera declared a state of emergency in the capital Santiago early on Saturday after the capital was in turmoil amid riots that set fire to a downtown building and shut down the subway system.

According to witnesses, social media and television pictures, protesters angry at the recent increase in public transport prices set fire to several subway stations, looted shops and burned a public bus on Friday afternoon.

Banira spoke to the people in the early hours of Saturday, declaring a state of emergency as police and firefighters rushed to contain the damage.

Benira, a center-right, said he would use a special state security law to prosecute “criminals” responsible for damage to the city, while expressing sympathy for those affected by the increase in public transport prices.

“In the coming days our government will call for dialogue … to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the increase in transport prices,” he said.

Enil Chili, a subsidiary of Italy’s Enel, said saboteurs set fire to the company’s headquarters in central Santiago. Local television footage showed flames rising from one side of the building as firefighters struggled to pass through growing numbers of protesters, the company said in a statement on Twitter that workers had been safely evacuated from the site.

The government raised the price of metro tickets on October 6 to about $ 1.17 for full-distance trips, blaming rising energy costs and falling pesos.

But protests turned increasingly violent on Friday afternoon and by the early hours of the evening officials closed all 136 of the city’s metro stations.

Metro officials said the network would remain closed over the weekend, citing “significant destruction” that made it impossible to operate trains safely.

Protesters clashed with policemen armed with batons and tear gas throughout the normally quiet city in the late hours of Friday, Transport Minister Gloria Hutt told reporters earlier on Friday after meeting the underground chief and interior minister that the ticket price increase would not be canceled.

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