Chile: a week of escalating protests

Riot police clash with demonstrators in Santiago (AFP Photo/Claudio REYES)

Santiago (AFP) - Demonstrations against a hike in metro ticket prices in Chile's capital exploded into violence on October 18, unleashing widening protests over living costs and social inequality.

With 20 people killed and thousands of troops deployed, here is a recap of Chile's worst violence in years:

- Subway stations burn -

On October 18, violence breaks out at protests over the price hikes as demonstrators clash with riot police in the capital Santiago.

The violence escalates into the night, and several metro stations are hit with Molotov cocktails.

Nearly all the 164 metro stations are attacked and 41 are destroyed, some completely charred. The whole network is shut down.

At least 16 buses are torched. The ENEL power company building and a Banco Chile branch are set on fire.

Around midnight, President Sebastian Pinera declares a state of emergency and deploys troops into Santiago.

- Buildings torched -

On October 19, hundreds of soldiers patrol Santiago for the first time since Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship between 1973-1990.

Thousands of protesters bang pots and pans in the capital. There are also anti-government demonstrations in other cities such as Vina del Mar and Valparaiso.

Hooded demonstrators clash with riot police and soldiers in several areas of Santiago, including outside the presidential palace. More buildings are torched.

Pinera suspends the ticket price hike and calls for dialogue. Authorities announce an overnight curfew in Santiago.

- First deaths -

Unrest continues on October 20, with two women burning to death in the early hours in a blaze.

Police and soldiers use tear gas and water cannons against protesters in the capital, where nearly 10,000 troops and police have been deployed.

Rioters set fire to a garment factory in the city's Renca suburb. Five bodies are recovered.

"We are at war against a powerful, implacable enemy," Pinera tells reporters after an emergency meeting.

Santiago's curfew is extended for a second night, and the state of emergency imposed in nine other regions.

- 'Get out military!' -

The next day, thousands of protesters gather peacefully, chanting, "Get out military!"

Many of the capital's schools and universities cancel classes, public transport remains heavily disrupted, and long queues form at supermarkets and petrol stations.

Pinera says he will meet on October 22 with leaders of Chile's political parties, saying he wants a "social agreement" to address people's grievances.

- Social measures rejected -

On October 22, Pinera apologizes to the nation and announces a package of social measures, including increasing the basic pension and freezing tariffs on electricity.

But the main unions and social groups call for a general strike.

On the first day of the strike, on October 23, thousands of people flood the streets of the capital and dozens of other cities demanding the government end the state of emergency.

The country's powerful copper mine workers' unions join the strike -- Chile is the world's largest copper producer -- along with health and port workers.

On October 24, Chile's Foreign Minister Teodoro Ribera says the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit will go ahead in Santiago in November as planned, despite the week of deadly protests.

- End of emergency -

On October 25, more than a million people take to the streets in a peaceful protest.

As tensions start to cool, violent clashes diminish and life returns to normal, authorities roll back their most unpopular security measures.

The armed forces end the nighttime curfews on October 26, while a day later, the state of emergency is called off as Pinera asks his entire cabinet to resign.

Since the start of the protests, 20 people have been killed, another 584 injured and about 2,410 arrested, according to the National Institute for Human Rights.

Some 20,000 police and troops had been deployed.

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