Santiago, Chile: Angry mobs of protesters smashed train stations and set fire to buildings as violence swept through Santiago after a hike in metro fares.
Sebastián Piñera, Chile’s president, declared a state of emergency in the capital after widespread arson and clashes with police in the heart of South America’s wealthiest country.
On Friday night Santiago was shrouded in smoke as the high-rise headquarters of energy company Enel was engulfed in flames and authorities battled fires at metro stops and banks across the city.
The state of emergency, established by Chile’s dictatorship-era constitution, grants the government additional powers to restrict freedom of movement and citizens’ right to assembly.
“I have declared a state of emergency and, to that end, I have appointed Major General Javier Iturriaga del Campo as head of national defense, in accordance with the provisions of our state of emergency legislation,” President Sebastian Pinera said.
The unrest started as a fare-dodging protest against the hike in metro ticket prices, which increased from 800 to 830 peso ($1.17) for peak hour travel, following a 20 peso rise in January.
Attacks on metro stations forced the closure of the entire subway system, which is the key form of public transport in the congested and polluted capital, carrying three million passengers a day.
Almost all public transport was paralysed in Santiago, with shops shuttered and many flights cancelled at the international airport, leaving thousands of people stranded and unable to leave due to the curfew, which was also extended for a second night.