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Death toll rises in Chile protests

The president cancelled a subway fare rise that prompted violent demonstrations.

A police water cannon extinguishes a burning bus that was set alight by demonstrators during a protest in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The protests started on Friday afternoon when high school students flooded subway stations, jumping turnstiles, dodging fares and vandalizing stations as part of protests against a fare hike, but by nightfall had extended throughout Santiago with students setting up barricades and fires at the entrances to subway stations, forcing President Sebastian Pinera to announce a state of emergency and deploy the armed forces into the streets. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
A police water cannon extinguishes a burning bus that was set alight by demonstrators during a protest in Santiago, Chile, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. The protests started on Friday afternoon when high school students flooded subway stations, jumping turnstiles, dodging fares and vandalizing stations as part of protests against a fare hike, but by nightfall had extended throughout Santiago with students setting up barricades and fires at the entrances to subway stations, forcing President Sebastian Pinera to announce a state of emergency and deploy the armed forces into the streets. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

By Eva Vergara, Associated Press

Protests and violence in Chile spilled over into a new day and raged into Sunday night despite the president cancelling a subway fare rise that has prompted violent demonstrations.

Officials in the Santiago region said three people died in fires at two looted supermarkets early on Sunday – among 60 Walmart-owned outlets that have been vandalised, and the company said many stores did not open during the day.

Five more people later were found dead in the basement of a burned warehouse and were not employees, authorities said.

At least two airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights into the capital, affecting more than 1,400 passengers on Sunday and Monday.

President Sebastian Pinera, facing the worst crisis of his second term as head of the South American country, announced on Saturday night that he was cancelling a subway fare rise imposed two weeks ago.

The fare increase touched off major protests that included rioting that caused millions of dollars in damage to burned buses and vandalised subway stops, office buildings and stores.

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Firefighters spray water on a looted supermarket in Santiago (Esteban Felix/AP)

After meeting with the heads of the legislature and judicial system, Mr Pinera said they discussed solutions to the current crisis and that he aims “to reduce excessive inequalities, inequities, abuses, that persist in our society”.

Jaime Quintana, president of the Senate, said that “the political world must take responsibility for how we have come to this situation”.

Authorities said 10,500 soldiers and police officers were patrolling the streets in Santiago as state of emergency and curfew remained in effect for six Chilean cities, but protests continued during the day.

Security forces used tear gas and jets of water to try disperse crowds.

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Clashes in Santiago (Esteban Felix/AP)

Interior Minister Andres Chadwick reported that 62 police officers and 11 civilians were injured in the latest disturbances and prosecutors said nearly 1,500 people had been arrested.

He said late on Sunday that there had been more than 70 “serious events” during the day, including more than 40 incidents of looting.

With transportation frozen, Cynthia Cordero said she had walked 20 blocks to reach a pharmacy to buy nappies, only to find it had been burned.

“They don’t have the right to do this,” she said, adding it was right to protest “against the abuses, the increases in fares, against bad education and an undignified pension, but not to destroy”.

Long lines formed at petrol stations as people tried to fill up for a coming work week with a public transport system disrupted by the destructive protests. Santiago’s subway, which carries an average of 2.4 million riders on a weekday, had been shut down since Friday.

Subway system chief Louis De Grange said workers would try to have at least one line running on Monday, but he said it could take weeks or months to have the four others back in service.

He said 85 stations and more than three-fourths of the system had been severely damaged.

PA

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