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Chilean president declares state of emergency amid riots

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Chilean president declares state of emergency amid riots
OCT. 19, 2019
By Sommer Brokaw

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People demonstrate against the rise of metro ticket prices in downtown Santiago, Chile, on Friday. Photo by Alberto Pena/EPA-EFE

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Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency Friday in a televised address to the nation after student protests over rising cost of public services. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency after student protests over metro fare hikes escalated to riots over the rising cost of living.

Piñera declared the emergency to restore "public order" Friday in a televised address after metro stations were vandalized and an electric company was set on fire as hundreds protested rising costs in Santiago and surrounding cities.

"The objective of this state of emergency is very simple, but very profound," Piñera said. "It's to ensure public order, bring peace to Santiago and protect public and private property."

The state of emergency allows soldiers to restrict the right to assembly and movement of citizens, and gives the government power to enforce sentences of up to 20 years for damage to public services.

It could last up to 15 days under Chile's dictatorship-era Constitution.

Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters Friday evening as Italian energy company Enel was engulfed in flames.

Chilean Police Director-General Mario Rozas said at least 180 people were detained and 57 police officers were injured in Friday's protests.

The Chilean student federation has called for a nationwide strike Monday.
"We are incredibly concerned for the safety of those young people involved in violent confrontations with the police, but the information we are getting from the authorities is one-sided," said Patricia Munox, Chile's ombudsperson for the rights of minors.
 

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