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Chile protests: Piñera announces welfare package



  A protester wears a mask and faces a fire.

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More than 5,000 people have been arrested since the protests began

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

He promised to increase the basic pension by 20% and proposed a law that requires the state to pay for expensive medical treatment.

The protests were triggered by a rise in subway prices, but grew to something bigger as thousands took to the streets over austerity and inequality.

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5 people died and more than 5,000 were imprisoned.

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

Mr Piñera said he hopes to make the recent violent protests an "opportunity" for Chile to "compensate for lost time, accelerate the pace and take concrete and urgent steps".

He promised to raise the minimum wage as well as the introduction of a new higher tax code. As part of the reform plan, electricity prices will also be lowered.

The protests started in the capital Santiago as part of an increase in the Metrotarife. High school students and students urged passengers to avoid fares by jumping over the turnstiles. The rise in subway prices has since fallen.

Protests quickly turned into mass demonstrations in several cities when Chileans took measures against rising living costs and low wages.

Chile is one of the most prosperous countries in the region, but has a high degree of inequality.

Ten cities are in a state of emergency and are closed at night. There were outbreaks of looting and arson.

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Media Caption Protesters and security forces clash in Santiago.

Many schools and shops were closed Tuesday in both Santiago and other cities. Gas stations formed long lines.

In Santiago, rioters damaged the city's subway system with repairs estimated to cost at least $ 200 million (£ 155 million). The subway is due to the damage only partially in operation.

The reaction of the security forces was criticized as stubborn, and on Tuesday a government spokesman [in Spanish] tweeted that "the armed forces were involved in four of the 15 deaths" that have occurred since the protests began.

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


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