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Chile protests: President Pinera plans to end state of emergency

“The march that all of us saw yesterday was a massive, joyous and peaceful march and one that opens great paths of the future and of hope. We have all heard the message,” Pinera said.

SNS | New Delhi |

Chile President Sebastian Pinera  said on Saturday that the state of emergency that has seen troops on the streets of this capital and other Chilean cities is set to end.

Pinera further said from La Moneda palace, “After talking with the armed forces and police, I want to announce to all my compatriots that if circumstances permit, it is my intention to lift all of the states of emergency as of 24.00 (midnight) Sunday,” the Efe news reported

His statement came after an announcements by the military commanders administering the states of emergency in Santiago, Coquimbo, La Serena and Concepcion that no curfews would be in effect in those jurisdictions on Saturday.

A day after some 1.2 million people – more than 5 percent of Chile’s population – gathered in Santiago to demand that he step down, the billionaire head of state also asked his Cabinet ministers to tender their resignations to make room for a new team.

“The march that all of us saw yesterday was a massive, joyous and peaceful march and one that opens great paths of the future and of hope. We have all heard the message,” Pinera said.

“Now we must join forces to provide genuine, urgent and responsible answers to those demands of all Chileans,” he said, while pointing to a set of proposals he made earlier this week that aimed at boosting incomes and reducing the cost of living for workers and the middle class.

At the same time, the president denounced the “brutal and destructive violence” perpetrated by some opponents of the government and defended his decision to declare a state of emergency and deploy the army.

Though Pi�era moved quickly to rescind the fare increase, the protests continued, driven by anger over low pensions and salaries and the high cost of electricity, gas, university education and health care.

Earlier on Tuesday, thousands of protesters took to the street to protests against the government.

Riot police used tear gas and streams of water to break up marches by rock-throwing demonstrators in several streets of Santiago while military and police guarded other Chileans who formed long lines at supermarkets.

The National Human Rights Institute (INDH), an autonomous public agency that monitors the actions of security forces, put the number of arrests at 2,840 and said that it has verified reports of torture and other abuses by police and soldiers.

A United Nations mission will travel to Chile next week to investigate possible human rights violations during the protests. Michelle Bachelet, the current UN high commissioner for Human Rights, was Pi�era’s predecessor as president.

“We are at war,” Pi�era said on Oct. 19 when he declared the state of emergency and sent troops and tanks into the streets.

But in an address to the nation Tuesday night, the President apologized to Chileans for a “lack of vision” and unveiled a set of measures ranging from pension increases to the scrapping of a planned hike in electric rates.

Last week, a total of 41 subway stations were damaged and at least 308 people were arrested during protests against an increase in metro faces in Santiago.

There are 582 people who have been injured in a week of protests, of whom 295 were wounded by weapons, either hit by tear gas bombs, rubber pellets or bullets.

The increase in the price of subway tickets set off a wave of protests, which, as the days went by, left citizens feeling that enough was enough. The meager pensions and wages and the high prices of electricity, gas, university education and healthcare sparked a social explosion of a kind not seen since the end of the dictatorship in 1990.

In response to the protests, the Chilean president decided to do something about certain elements of the political, economic and social model that are most rejected by the population, such as low pensions, the high cost of medicines and the paltry public healthcare system.

(With inputs from agency)