RPT: FEATURE - 'Night Of Pot Banging' Or How To Endure Curfew In Protest-Hit Santiago

RPT: FEATURE - 'Night of Pot Banging' or How to Endure Curfew in Protest-Hit Santiago

SANTIAGO (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 23rd October, 2019) Most guidebooks describe the Chilean capital as a stylish city located near the majestic Andes, where one can find entertainment for every taste.

However, after days of protests and riots that have been gripping the country since October 6, when the authorities increased subway fares, Santiago no longer looks so attractive.

What started as peaceful public demonstrations has turned into violent rallies surrounded by clashes with police and public unrest. Last week, the violence peaked as protesters burned several subway stations as well as buses, office buildings and shops. The transport services have been disrupted.

Santiago and other key tourist destinations, for example Valparaiso and Atacama, have spent several nights under a curfew, which imposes strict restrictions on both locals and travelers.

TOURISTS FEEL 'BIT OF AFRAID TO COME'

An Argentine-operated plane lands in Santiago in the evening, half full, although it is quite a popular destination for Buenos Aires residents.

"There are unusually few people on board," Juan, an Argentine who does business with Chile and frequently flies between the two capitals, pointed out.

Taxi driver Miguel agrees with him, saying: "There has been a noticeable drop in tourists in recent days. They are a bit of afraid to come; these protests have hit tourism."

Meanwhile, there are not so many people at the Santiago airport as it was a couple of days ago when two major airlines - LATAM and Sky - canceled more than half of their flights. Nevertheless, people still queue to get information from these companies at the airport.

At passport control, foreigners get special coupons containing their ID data and whereabouts in the city. They are also warned that the "curfew means that you can get to a hotel only by taxi, while it is forbidden to go out until the morning. If your car is stopped by the military, show them this paper."

On the way from the airport, one can see burning tyres as well as an amateur football field set on fire.

"I do not understand these people; they are really criminals, they loot shops and destroy something that is important and necessary," Miguel said.

He stressed that he did not mean peaceful demonstrators but those who had literally destroyed the Santiago subway, the main transport artery of the capital region in just a few days.

"Now those who live in the city suburbs have to change four buses to get to their work. Santiago has become really unsafe: crime has risen greatly, people are robbed on the street," the taxi driver explained.

The city streets, usually filled with families walking with their children until late evening, looks deserted. Only occasionally one can see passers-by. All shops and restaurants are closed.

Yet, the impression is deceptive. It would suffice to open a car window to hear the noise of protests banging pots - this way Latin Americans usually express their discontent.

In the early hours of Tuesday, despite the curfew, military and protesters clashed again. Social media circulated a video depicting an armored vehicle approaching a large crowd in a central district of the city. The military got out of the vehicle and opened fire.

The footage, however, does not show what is happening on the side of the protesters.

"I know that videos go viral with the help of which many people try to accuse us of exercising excessive cruelty. Control to enforce the curfew is needed to protect Chileans. We are investigating all situations, we will not hide anything," National Security chief Gen. Javier Iturriaga said, as broadcast by 24 Horas.

According to the latest data, the death toll from protests in Chile has risen to 15. At the same time, 11 victims were killed in fires and attacks on supermarkets, not from bullet wounds. The violence has also left 211 people injured and 2,643 detained.

The authorities keep calling on Chileans to demonstrate peacefully.

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