SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) – Chilean President Sebastián Piñera cancelled two major international summits and said he would focus on restoring security and moving ahead in the coming days with an attempt to satisfy popular demands for better social services and a lower cost of living.
Thirteen days into a wave of protests that has left more than a dozen people dead, hundreds injured and businesses and infrastructure damaged, the streets of Santiago were mostly calm on Wednesday night after Piñera’s announcement. A few thousand people protested outside the presidential palace.
It was unclear if the relative tranquility would continue yesterday, the first day in a long holiday weekend in Chile.
The decision to call off the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and United Nations (UN) global climate gatherings, planned for November and December, respectively, dealt a major blow to Chile’s image as a regional oasis of stability and economic development. But leaders across Chile’s political spectrum, and protesters on the streets Wednesday, mostly said they accepted Piñera’s decision, although many lamented cancelling the climate summit. Chile has moved faster than many South American countries to reduce carbon emissions, and activists and politicians alike had high hopes for the summit.
“This has been a very difficult decision that causes us great pain,” Piñera said in a televised address. “A president always has to put the needs of his countrymen first.”
Piñera said he was forced to cancel both events due to the chaos unleashed by 12 days of protests. Demonstrators are demanding greater economic equality and better public services in a country long seen as an economic success story.
Shops have been vandalised and buildings set on fire, shutting down numerous subway stations.