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Three die in fire as Chile hit by riots over wealth


Damage: A protester rides past a street bonfire in Santiago. Photo: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Damage: A protester rides past a street bonfire in Santiago. Photo: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Damage: A protester rides past a street bonfire in Santiago. Photo: REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Three people have died in a supermarket fire set by looters as riots continued for a second night in Santiago and spread to other Chilean cities in protests over the cost of living.

President Sebastián Piñera announced he would suspend the small hike in subway fares that triggered the latest violence.

But it was dismissed as too little and too late to immediately defuse the tension.

"I have humbly listened the voice of my compatriots and I will not be afraid to continue listening to that voice," Mr Piñera said. "That is how democracies are built."

Rioters burned supermarkets and stores and set up barricades during the night, even after the army announced a curfew between 10pm and 7am. Flights were suspended during the night at Santiago Airport, with passengers sleeping on conveyor belts to respect the lock-in.

Some barricades were still spewing smoke in the streets of Santiago as people tried to catch the few buses that were starting to circulate in the city. Others walked or shared cars to get to their jobs.

Santiago is set to host US President Donald Trump and other leaders of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in less than a month.

These are the worst protests in decades in Chile - more than 70 subway stations have been damaged, buses were set on fire and stores were looted.

The protests prompted the government to announce a state of emergency, first in Santiago and now in six cities including Concepción, the second biggest in the country, with more than 9,000 soldiers being deployed on the streets.

After the protests began on Friday, people still gathered in various neighbourhoods of the city banging pots and pans. Isolated clashes broke out with the police, who used tear gas to disperse crowds. Protesters have called for more demonstrations this week.

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Manuel José Ossandón, a senator for ruling party RN, had earlier urged Mr Piñera to freeze further increases in public service prices, saying the political establishment had failed to attend to people's needs.

"We have two Chiles and this is serious," he said about income disparity in the South American country.

What started as a mass student protest over an increase in public transport fares morphed into a broader movement for changes to Chile's economic model, which has produced vast wealth, but left many struggling to get by.

The fare increase - 30 pesos, or less than four cents - came just weeks after the government announced a 10pc hike in electricity bills.

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