The worst unrest in Chile in a generation threatens to overturn assumptions about one of South America’s most stable countries and the world’s leading copper producer.
All it took was a US4¢ rise in the peak hour fares on the Santiago metro on Oct. 6. But by Oct. 18, a week of mass fare-jumping by high school and university students had descended into widespread vandalism and pitched battles with riot police.
The scenes were apocalyptic, with dozens of metro stations and buses set alight, mobs looting supermarkets, and the headquarters of the country’s largest electricity company in flames.
With police apparently overwhelmed, Chile’s centre-right president Sebastian Pinera decreed a state of emergency, imposing a curfew and sending troops into Santiago for the first time since its return to democracy in 1990.
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