Latin America & Caribbean

Southern Chile sees ongoing protests over gas prices

Protesters gather as policemen stand guard in front of the city hall during a general strike at Punta Arenas city
Image caption Living costs in the region are the highest in Chile

Protests in southern Chile over a rise in gas prices are continuing after unsuccessful talks with the government.

Demonstrators in the far south of the country have been blocking roads and ports at plans to increase prices by nearly 17%.

The government subsequently offered to limit the rise to 3% and continue subsidies for poorer families.

Meanwhile, hundreds of tourists stranded in the region, some for several days, have managed to leave.

Chile's Mining and Energy Minister Laurence Golborne travelled to the regional capital of Punta Arenas in a bid to try to end the dispute.

But talks on Monday with local leaders failed to produce a breakthrough.

Mr Golborne said he still hoped discussions could continue and urged protesters to consider the government's offer to limit the price rise to 3% in line with inflation and maintain subsidies for some of the poorest families.

"It's a reasonable proposal that addresses the region's problems," he said.

The protests erupted after Chile's state-owned National petroleum Company (Enap) decided to reduce local subsidies from February, which would have increased natural gas prices by nearly 17%.

Cold temperatures in Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctic mean households require more heating and the cost of living is higher than in the rest of Chile.

Demonstrators have been blocking main roads and ports, hitting the region's tourist trade.

Some 3,000 visitors who were visting the area, including Chile's biggest tourist attraction, the Torres del Paine national park, had been stranded in the region. Many have now managed to leave, either by plane or bus.

The government has indicated it may use a state security law which could mean troops being deployed to dismantle the blockades.

Argentina has meanwhile voiced concern at the situation in its province on Tierra del Fuego and called for the rapid reopening of access routes to the island.

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