What Happened: Violence erupted during a series of protests in the Chilean capital of Santiago and 12 other cities that began Oct. 18, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and deploy the military, Reuters reported Oct. 19. Protesters gathered to demonstrate against a hike in metro ticket prices, leading President Sebastian Pinera to suspend the increase on Oct. 20. Demonstrations, however, have continued with a focus on income inequality, with mining unions calling for shutdowns of the massive Escondida copper mine on Oct. 21-22 as well as a general miners' strike for Oct. 23.
Why It Matters: Protests against the relatively modest, second annual fare hike have ballooned around broader discontent about an uneven distribution of wealth and with Pinera's pro-business policies.
Background: The deployment of the military on the streets of Santiago is the first since the country's political transition from a dictatorship in 1990. The Chilean protests come on the heels of similar anti-austerity unrest in Ecuador, which was triggered by the elimination of fuel subsidies. With regional economies squeezed by sluggish growth and governments still seeking to implement painful pro-market reforms, the situation is ripe for disruptive, widespread unrest.
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