Chile Protest Pictures: Fires Blaze Through Santiago As President Declares State of Emergency

The Chilean government has declared a state of emergency in the capital, Santiago, after violent protests erupted across the city on Friday, causing fires and widespread travel disruption.

The state of emergency—which can remain in place for 15 days, according to the the Chilean constitution—hands responsibility for security to the military, while providing the government with additional powers to restrict the movement of citizens and the right to assembly, The Guardian reported.

"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 Sebastián Piñera said.

"The aim is to ensure public order and the safety of public and private property," he said in a televised address. "There will be no room for violence in a country with the rule of law at its core."

Demonstrators took to the streets on Friday in protest over increases in the price of metro tickets, which have risen from 800 to 830 pesos ($1.17) for peak travel times. This increase came soon after another 20 peso rise in January, AFP reported.

Protesters and police clashed over the course of Friday in various parts of Santiago. Demonstrators targeted nearly all of the 164 metro stations by destroying gates and turnstiles and even throwing Molotov cocktails, forcing the closure of the entire subway system—the largest in South America and the most important form of transport in the capital. Many commuters had no choice but to walk home.

A bus burns down in downtown Santiago, on October 18, 2019, following a mass fare-dodging protest. CLAUDIO REYES/AFP via Getty Images

"The entire network is closed due to riots and destruction that prevent the minimum security conditions for passengers and workers," the operator of the metro system wrote on Twitter. The subway system is expected to remain closed over the weekend.

As day turned to night, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the Italian energy company ENEL as well as a branch of the Banco Chile in the city center. Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse protesters, who blocked thoroughfares with barricades in several parts of the city.

Firefighters extinguish a barricade placed by protesters in downtown Santiago on October 18, 2019, following a mass fare-dodging protest. JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images

In a radio interview, the Chilean president condemned the protesters saying, "This desire to break everything is not a protest, it's criminal."

The government has also said it will apply the State Security Law, which is separate to the state of the emergency. It opens up the possibility that those found guilty of damaging or inhibiting public services could be sent to prison for up to 20 years, The Guardian reported.

Protesters gesture as the Macul Metro station burns during a mass fare-dodging protest in Santiago, on October 19, 2019. JAVIER TORRES/AFP via Getty Images

Aside from the increase in metro prices, many Chileans are angry over other rises in the cost of living, notably when it comes to healthcare, education and other public services.

"Over the past decade, the Chilean state has lost touch with these problems," writer Marco Antonio de la Parra told the Guardian. "The places that have been targeted tonight are deeply symbolic: transport and energy represent the success of the state and the model it upholds."