President Sebastián Piñera said on Sunday that he does not rule out the possibility of declaring a state of emergency again in Chile and ordering the military onto the streets, if violence intensifies in March, as occurred last October.
“If I believe that it’s necessary to establish a state of emergency again to protect the public order, to protect my compatriots, we are going to do it,” proclaimed Piñera in an interview on a state TV channel.
On the night of October 18, 2019, a social uprising began accompanied by some violent protests and looting. The conservative leader decreed a state of emergency in Santiago and ordered the military onto the streets. The measure extended to other cities and cancelled 10 days after, those unrest continued.
Chile's social crisis last year began after massive protests against a rise in the metro fare in Santiago, spiralling into a wider protest movement. Large demonstrations lasted four months, with 31 civilians killed in demonstrations, two after being held in state custody.
While the violence of protests diminished between January and February, authorities fear that riots will intensify again in March, with activists on social media calling for more demonstrations this week
“If anyone thinks that I have a complex, or that I don’t want to use force, within the law and the rule of the law, they are profoundly mistaken,” warned the Chilean leader.
Piñera has been unable to overcome the protests that have demanded social structural reforms and all his previous attempts to solve the crisis have proved fruitless.
Chants and songs abusing the president have been heard in football stadiums, protests and musical events such as the Viña del Mar festival, where some called for his resignation. Some chants have even called him an "assassin", comparing him to Augusto Pinochet, under whose dictatorship (1973-1990) nearly 3,000 people died.
"It causes me a lot of pain, a lot of grief. It seems to me that this is a very unfair accusation. As president, I have one thing clear: respect for human rights and life, that is something sacred," Piñera said in the interview, defending himself.
Chile will hold a referendum on April 26 on whether to draft a new constitution to replace the current one, inherited from the Pinochet era, a key demand of the protest movement.