Chile president declares state of emergency after violent protests

Violent clashes escalated as night fell, and the ENEL power company building and a Banco Chile branch, both in the city center, were set on fire. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 October 2019

Chile president declares state of emergency after violent protests

  • Throughout Friday, protesters clashed with riot police in several parts of the city and the subway system was shut after attacks on several stations
  • Protesters erected barricades in various parts of the city and clashed with police

SANTIAGO, Chile: Chile’s president declared a state of emergency in Santiago Friday night and gave the military responsibility for security after a day of violent protests over increases in the price of metro tickets.

“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.

Throughout Friday, protesters clashed with riot police in several parts of the city and the subway system was shut after attacks on several stations.
Violent clashes escalated as night fell, and the ENEL power company building and a Banco Chile branch, both in the city center, were set on fire and several metro stations hit with Molotov cocktails.

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.

“The entire network is closed due to riots and destruction that prevent the minimum security conditions for passengers and workers,” the metro operator said on Twitter, after attacks against nearly all the 164 stations where many gates and turnstiles were destroyed.

The Santiago Metro, at 140 kilometers (90 miles) the largest and most modern in South America, is expected to remain closed this weekend and could reopen gradually next week.

Closure of the metro forced many Santiago residents to walk home, sometimes long distances, resulting in scenes of chaos.

Protesters erected barricades in various parts of the city and clashed with police, who used water cannon and tear gas in the most violent street battle seen in the Chilean capital for a long time.

Pinera slammed the protesters as criminals. “This desire to break everything is not a protest, it’s criminal,” he said in a radio interview.

On Thursday, 133 people had been arrested for causing damage to metro stations, estimated at up to 500 million pesos ($700,000).


India’s parliament passes citizenship law, protests flare

Updated 53 min 38 sec ago

India’s parliament passes citizenship law, protests flare

  • Police in Assam’s main city of Guwahati used water cannons and tear gas as they clashed with protesters
  • The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi

NEW DELHI: India’s ruling Hindu nationalist government on Wednesday won parliamentary approval for a far-reaching citizenship law that critics say undermines the country’s secular constitution, as protests against the legislation intensified.
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Parsis and Sikhs who fled Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan before 2015.
The bill passed the upper house of parliament with 125 members supporting it and 105 opposing.
The move by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faced stiff resistance from opposition parties, minority groups, and student bodies, with some calling it discriminatory against Muslims.
It is the third key election promise that Modi’s government has delivered since he was re-elected in May, re-energizing his nationalist, Hindu support base and drawing attention away from a slackening economy.
As the upper chamber debated the bill, demonstrations against it turned violent in the country’s ethnically diverse northeast.
Soldiers were deployed in Tripura state and reinforcements put on standby in neighboring Assam, both of which border Bangladesh.
Despite assurances from India’s Home Minister Amit Shah that safeguards will be put in place, people in Assam and surrounding states fear that an influx of settlers could lead to a competition for land and upset the region’s demographic balance.
Some opposition Muslim politicians have also argued that the bill targets their community, which numbers more than 170 million people and is by far India’s largest minority group.
The government has said the new law will be followed by a citizenship register which means Muslims will have to prove they were original residents of India and not refugees from these three countries, potentially rendering some of them stateless.
“NARROW-MINDED“
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom said on Monday that Washington should consider sanctions against Shah, a close associate of Modi if India adopts the legislation.
“The passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill marks the victory of narrow-minded and bigoted forces over India’s pluralism,” said Sonia Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party.
Defending the bill in the upper house, Shah said the new law only sought to help minorities persecuted in Muslim-majority countries contiguous with India.
“Nobody is taking citizenship away from India’s Muslims. This is a bill to give citizenship, not take citizenship away,” Shah said.
In another move criticized by Muslims as discriminatory, the government scrapped the disputed Kashmir region’s autonomy.
Last month, the country’s supreme court also allowed the construction of a Hindu temple at a religious site in Northern India also claimed by Muslims.
A curfew has been imposed in Assam’s main city of Guwahati after police clashed with thousands of protesters, beating them back using water cannons and tear gas.
State authorities in Assam also blocked mobile Internet services in 10 districts, fearing further violence.
Protesters, many of them students, remained on the streets late into Wednesday evening, where bonfires were lit, public property vandalized and vehicles set on fire.
“The bill will take away our rights, language and culture with millions of Bangladeshis getting citizenship,” said Gitimoni Dutta, a college student at the protest.