<!--[if IE]><![endif]-->
Latin America & Caribbean
Latin America & Caribbean

Chile protests: President Piñera to meet opposition

  • 22 October 2019
Related Topics
A riot police water cannon sprays water towards demonstrators during a protest in Santiago. Image copyright Reuters Image caption Security forces have been using water cannon to break up protests

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has said he will meet opposition leaders amid major protests which have left 15 people dead since Friday.

The crisis started in the capital, Santiago, over a rise in metro prices which has since been overturned.

It quickly spread to other cities, fuelled by anger over rising living costs and high levels of inequality.

While some protests were peaceful, there were also outbreaks of looting and arson.

The response of the security forces has been criticised as heavy-handed and on Tuesday a government spokesman tweeted [in Spanish] that "the armed forces had been involved in four of the 15 deaths" which have occurred since the protests began.

One of those killed was a 22-year-old man who was reportedly hit by a military truck in the southern city of Talcahuano.

What is the latest?

After using a very belligerent tone, labelling the protesters as criminals and declaring that the country was "at war with an implacable enemy", President Piñera took a more conciliatory approach on Tuesday in announcing that he would meet opposition leaders.

He said the aim was to "progress towards a social contract which will allow us to together find better solutions to the problems afflicting Chileans".

The president did not say who would take part in the meeting, but Chile's Socialist Party said it would not attend, arguing that key civil society groups had not been invited.

'Chile has woken up'

Protesters are gathering again as they have every day since the unrest started. The crowds are swelling with people banging pots and pans and shouting chants like "Chile has woken up" and "Soldiers go away".

People's complaints are varied - healthcare, education, an out-of-touch political elite - but everyone I have spoken to who is not involved in the protests says they support these mostly peaceful demonstrations and calls for change.

Soldiers are also out in force, patrolling outside supermarket queues and standing by protests. Chileans feel they are trying to intimidate - and it works. Most won't risk staying out beyond the curfew that's been imposed in the past few evenings.

Commentators in the Chilean media have pointed out that part of the difficulty in quelling the protests is that no clear leaders or spokespeople have emerged, and that people's grievances are disparate and manifold.

Many schools and shops remained closed on Tuesday both in Santiago and in other cities, and long queues again formed at petrol stations.

The metro is still only partially running in the capital, with many of its stations badly damaged in the protests.

How did it all start?

In the wake of an increase in metro fares in Santiago, high school pupils and university students called on passengers to take part in what they called "mass evasion", evading paying fares by jumping over the turnstiles.

Image copyright AFP Image caption The protests were kicked off by students calling for a fare-dodging protest

There was chaos at metro stations as police confronted the fare dodgers and violent clashes ensued.

The protests quickly turned into mass demonstrations which were joined by Chileans who said they felt squeezed by rising living costs and low wages.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionProtesters and security forces clash in Santiago

Chile is one of the most prosperous countries in the region but it has high levels of inequality, and many Chileans say they feel their concerns are being ignored by the government of President Piñera, a billionaire businessman.

The clashes also come amid continuing discontent in some of the country's universities and schools over lack of resources and underfunding.

Why did the clashes turn violent so quickly?

The anger quickly boiled over with a hard core of protesters turning to looting and arson.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Various sites - from billboards to supermarkets - have been set ablaze in Santiago

The police responded by firing tear gas and using water cannon, and many demonstrators described it as heavy-handed and brutal.

United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, who was Mr Piñera's predecessor in office, has called for an independent investigation into the alleged excesses of the security forces. She also urged the protesters to refrain from violence.

By the time the fare increase which triggered the protests was overturned, anger had risen to such levels that many Chileans defied curfews imposed in a number of cities to continue demonstrating.

The deployment of the army on the streets, the first time since Chile's return to democracy in 1990 after years of military rule, further riled protesters.

Image copyright Reuters Image caption Thousands of people have been arrested

More than 2,600 people have been detained since Friday.

Are you in Santiago? Have you been affected by what's happened? If it's safe to do so, you can get in touch by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

Or use the form below:

Your contact details

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions

The BBC's Privacy Policy

More on this story

  • Chile protests: Is inequality becoming worse?
    21 October 2019
  • Chile protests: Three dead in supermarket fire as clashes continue
    20 October 2019
  • Chile protests: Unrest in Santiago over metro fare increase
    19 October 2019
  • Chile country profile
    12 April 2018

Top Stories

Cummings row overshadows plans to lift lockdown

The cabinet will meet as the PM's aide continues to face questions over claims he broke lockdown rules.

25 May 2020
US bars foreign travellers from Brazil
25 May 2020
Government draws up rescue plan for key companies
25 May 2020



The unexpected benefits of lockdown in a tiny village

The boat that disappeared

'I left my campervan in Argentina'

What is Capt Tom's £33m actually being spent on?

PM fails to close down Cummings story


Care home creates 'drive-through' visit

The unseen key workers keeping things going


Could lockdown help fight HIV?

Creative solutions to social distancing

Elsewhere on the BBC