Chilean president calls protesters “criminals” after violence spreads

Five more people die after looters torch garment factory near Chile’s capital Santiago taking the total death toll in violent protests to at least seven.

Firefighters say they found five bodies inside the garment factory burned by rioters in a suburb of Santiago. Earlier on Saturday, three others had died in a supermarket fire in Santiago.

The Chilean military and police used tear gas and water cannon against protesters and a curfew was imposed in major cities. The state of Emergency has increased to several new cities in the north and south —  Antofagasta, Valparaíso, Valdivia, Chillán, Talca, Temuco and Punta Arenas.

There have been about 70 “serious incidents of violence”, including 40 lootings of supermarkets and other businesses. Two people also suffered gunshot wounds after a clash with police. Some 10,500 police and soldiers have been deployed to the streets and more than 1,400 were arrested.

In many cities protesters set busses on fire, smashed up metro stations and clashed with riot police.

In Santiago most of the public transport was disrupted leading to several domestic and international flight cancellations.

The unrest erupted after metro fare hike, which is now suspended but widened into other issues such as living costs and inequality.

President Sebastián Piñera in a statement on Sunday said, “We’re at war against a powerful enemy, who is willing to use violence without any limits.”

The billionaire president also called the protesters “criminals”. He has deployed soldiers and tanks in the streets for the first time in decades.

The violence could force banks, schools and shops to remain shut until the situation eases.