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Chile protests continue despite gov't retreat on fare hike

A demonstrator holds up his hands toward advancing soldiers during a protest as a state of emergency remains in effect in Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- Protests and violence in Chile spilled over into a new day Sunday even after the president cancelled a subway fare hike that prompted violent demonstrations.

Officials in the Santiago region said three people died in fires at two looted supermarkets early Sunday -- among 60 Walmart-owned outlets that have been vandalized, and the company said many stores did not open during the day. Five more people later were found dead in the basement of a burned warehouse and were not employees, authorities said.

At least two airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights into the capital, affecting more than 1,400 passengers Sunday and Monday.

President Sebastian Pinera, facing the worst crisis of his second term as head of the South American country, announced Saturday night that he was cancelling a subway fare hike imposed two weeks ago. The fare boost had led to major protests that included rioting that caused millions of dollars in damage to burned buses and vandalized subway stops, office buildings and stores.

After meeting with the heads of the legislature and judicial system Sunday, Pinera said they discussed solutions to the current crisis and that he aims "to reduce excessive inequalities, inequities abuses, that persist in our society."

Jaime Quintana, president of the Senate, said that "the political world must take responsibility for how we have come to this situation."

Troops patrolled the streets and a state of emergency and curfew remained in effect for six Chilean cities, but renewed protests continued during the day. Security forces used tear gas and jets of water to try disperse crowds.

Interior Minister Andres Chadwick reported that 62 police officers and 11 civilians were injured in the latest disturbances and prosecutors said nearly 1,500 people had been arrested.

With transportation frozen, Cynthia Cordero said she had walked 20 blocks to reach a pharmacy to buy diapers, only to find it had been burned.

"They don't have the right to do this," she said, adding it was right to protest "against the abuses, the increases in fares, against bad education and an undignified pension, but not to destroy."

Long lines formed at gas stations as people tried to fill up for a coming workweek with a public transport system depleted by the destructive protests.

Subway system chief Louis De Grange said workers would try to have at least one line running Monday, but he said it could take weeks or months to have the four others back in service.

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