At least 11 people have died in Chile, according to the mayor of capital city Santiago, as protests and violence in the country continued.
Mayor Karla Rubilar said eight people died Sunday, the most deadly day in a week of demonstrations over a proposed public transport ticket price increase. Many of the deaths have occurred during looting when supermarkets were set on fire.
The unrest has widened to reflect anger over living costs and inequality and entered a seventh day Sunday despite President Sebastian Piñera announcing Saturday that ministers will suspend plans to raise subway fares.
“We are at war with a powerful enemy, relentless, that does respect anyone or anything,” Piñera told reporters.
With a state of emergency already in place, schools in the Santiago metropolitan region would remain closed on Monday, Rubilar announced.
“We are trying to bring back peace to the people,” said Rubilar, adding, “we received your message, but in order to carry it out we need to dialogue in peace.”
Chilean airline LATAM Airlines Group said in a statement it had canceled over 200 flights between Sunday evening and Monday morning local time, affecting international and domestic flights.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights and two-time Chilean President, on Monday urged the government to work with “all sectors of society to find a solution” which would “address the grievances of the population.”
“I also urge all those planning to take part in protests later today and going forward, to do so peacefully,” she said in a statement Monday.
“There needs to be open and sincere dialogue by all actors concerned to help resolve this situation, including a profound examination of the wide range of socio-economic issues underlying the current crisis,” Bachelet added.
State of emergency
Over the last week, thousands have taken to the streets of Santiago and surrounding cities, with some vandalizing metro stations and even setting an electrical company building on fire.
Armed forces mobilized on the streets for the first time in almost 30 years, reports Reuters, as Piñera declared a state of emergency in a televised address to the nation Friday.
On Saturday, in the port city of Valparaiso, the offices of the country’s oldest newspaper, Mercurio were torched, the agency also reports, while army has confirmed it shot and injured two people while chasing looters.
“This is not a simple protest over the rise of metro fares, this is an outpouring for years of oppression that have hit mainly the poorest,” Karina Sepulveda, an anthropology student, told Reuters at a protest in central Santiago on Sunday.
“The illusion of the model Chile is over. Low wages, lack of healthcare and bad pensions have made people tired.”
On Friday Piñera had condemned the violence and looting, saying that because of currency exchange fluctuations, it was necessary to raise the price of public transport. But he added that he sympathized with those who were bearing the cost of the rises.