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Report: Chile declares state of emergency in capital following violent protests

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of emergency in the country's capital of Santiago as protests against recent public transportation fare hikes turned into violent riots and resulted in widespread destruction, Reuters reported.

Enel Chile SA, the Chilean unit of Italian electric utility company Enel SpA, in a tweet said employees had been evacuated following attacks that set the company's corporate headquarters on fire.

The Chilean government reportedly hiked metro fares to as much as $1.17 due to a devaluation of the local currency and rising fuel costs, prompting protests from high school and university students.

The capital was struck by chaos, with protesters setting ablaze several metro stations and a public bus, Reuters said. Armed police clashed with demonstrators, who were fueled by the rising cost of living in one of Latin America's wealthiest but also most unequal countries.

The state of emergency, which will remain in place for up to 15 days, grants the government additional powers to regulate freedom of movement and right to assembly, The Guardian noted. Chile also invoked the State Security Law, which will allow authorities to prosecute those damaging public property, said Andrés Chadwick, the country's interior minister, according to the publication.

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

Chilean Transport Minister Gloria Hutt told reporters Oct. 18 that the fare hike will remain in place, Reuters reported.