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  • Protesters set fire to a roadblock this Friday in the framework of protests against the rise of the Metro ticket, in downtown Santiago (Chile)

    Protesters set fire to a roadblock this Friday in the framework of protests against the rise of the Metro ticket, in downtown Santiago (Chile) | Photo: EFE

Published 18 October 2019

Protests spread throughout Santiago Friday night, bringing the city to a near collapse.

Protests over the price increase of the Santiago Metro spread throughout this city throughout Friday with protests and clashes on the streets, which led to the closure of all suburban lines and left thousands of people without a way to get home.

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On the fifth day of protests in several Metro stations, with hundreds of young people entering stations without paying and facing the police,  near-riots have increased in various parts of the city.

Heavy fire consumed this Friday the building of the electricity distribution company Enel in the center of Santiago de Chile after an alleged attack by strangers in the context of intense disturbances in different areas from the city, the company reported.

The central Plaza Italia, the usual place for social protests in Chile, has streets closed to traffic with barricades of metal fences and some bonfires.

The image is repeated in several parts of the Chilean capital, with damage to the external installations of Metro stations and clashes with the police.

Interior Minister Andrés Chadwick, after a meeting of several hours with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, invoked the state security law, legislation that could be used to sentence anyone for up to 10 years if convicted of vandalism or risking the country's internal security.

"We have invoked the State Security Law for those who are guilty of causing damage to the Metro and its operation. We have filed complaints by the State Security Law that establishes very severe penalties," Chadwick said.

The minister condemned the violence that has been provoked and said that these are "acts of vandalism that are executed by organized groups."

In addition, the authority announced that the presence of police officers from the Carabineros corps was reinforced to protect public order.

For its part, the Minister of Transportation of Chile, Gloria Hutt, said that the "serious deterioration" that has occurred in the Metro system prevents its operation in a "safe and normal" way, so it has been necessary to suspend operations.

The suspension will continue until the pertinent repairs can be made to recover the service, added the minister, who estimated that this could be achieved next week, gradually.

To alleviate the lack of transportation produced by this measure, she announced that the bus fleet has been reinforced with 700 units that will replicate the Metro lines by road.

The trigger for the protests was the 30 pesos increase in the price of the subway tickets decreed two weeks ago, to the current 830 pesos (about 1.2 dollars) at rush hour.

The outrage of the users increased with the statements of the Minister of Economy, Juan Andrés Fontaine, who urged passengers to get up early to take advantage of the low fare that runs between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. in the morning.

High school and university students are the main protest protagonists, although other people have joined the call to evade the payment of the ticket.

The majority of the mobilizations of rejection to the rise of the tickets have consisted of massive evasions and to raise the screens of payment so that the passengers enter the platforms without paying.

The Police, meanwhile, has acted forcefully to stop protesters and has used tear gas inside stations, in some subway cars and on the street. Students accuse the police of using excessive force and rubber bullets against them.

Metro Santiago is a private company in whose ownership the Chilean State participates. Chile has the most expensive public transportation rates in the whole region.

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