Latin America & Caribbean

Chile protests: Piñera announces welfare package

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Media captionMore than 5,000 people have been detained since protests began

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has announced reforms aimed at ending days of violent protests.

He vowed to increase the basic pension by 20% and proposed a law that would see the state cover the costs of expensive medical treatments.

The protests were sparked by a rise in metro prices but grew into something bigger as thousands took to the streets over austerity and inequality.

Fifteen people have died and more than 5,000 detained.

Speaking from the presidential palace in Santiago, Mr Piñera said he had received a clear message from Chileans.

Mr Piñera said he hoped to turn recent violent protests into an "opportunity" for Chile "to make up for lost time, pick up the pace and take concrete and urgent steps".

He vowed to increase the minimum wage as well as introducing a new higher tax bracket. Electricity rates will also be cut under the reform plan.

The protests began in the capital Santiago in the wake of an increase in metro fares. High school pupils and university students called on passengers to evade fares by jumping over the turnstiles. The rise in metro prices has since been overturned.

Protests quickly turned into mass demonstrations in several cities as Chileans sought action on rising living costs and low wages.

Chile is one of the most prosperous countries in the region but has high levels of inequality.

Ten cities have been placed in a state of emergency and under a night curfew. There have been outbreaks of looting and arson.

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Media captionProtesters and security forces clash in Santiago

Many schools and shops remained closed on Tuesday in both Santiago and other cities, and long queues formed at petrol stations.

In Santiago, rioters damaged the city's metro system with repairs estimated to total at least $200 million (£155 million). The metro is still only partially running due to the damage.

The response of the security forces has been criticised as heavy-handed and on Tuesday a government spokesman tweeted [in Spanish] that "the armed forces had been involved in four of the 15 deaths" which have occurred since the protests began.

One of those killed was a 22-year-old man who was reportedly hit by a military truck in the southern city of Talcahuano.

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