Chile minister expects job losses, fuel hike in wake of protests

November 15, 2019 09:44
Police clash with anti-government demonstrators in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

Chile’s finance minister predicted that as many as 300,000 jobs could be lost because of the impact of four weeks of rioting in one of Latin America’s strongest economies, Reuters reports.

Newly appointed Finance Minister Ignacio Briones told a legislative committee on Thursday it was “highly likely” unemployment would jump 3 percent in the coming months, Diario Financiero reported.

The peso currency, which hit a historic low on Thursday, also raised the specter of a hike in fuel costs, Briones told reporters outside the committee.

“Fuel prices are going to rise, it can’t be any other way,” he said.

The past month’s protests started over a hike in public transport fares but have broadened to encompass grievances over low wages, the high cost of living and social inequality.

Demonstrators gathered in public squares on Thursday for another round of protests, which have paralyzed daily life. At least 24 people have died and thousands injured in clashes between protesters and police.

President Sebastián Piñera announced a state of emergency as riots took hold, then a costly new social plan. He reshuffled his government and appealed for Chileans to subscribe to national accords around justice, equality and peace.

The police have been criticized for their handling of the demonstrations, with medical experts saying that more than 200 protesters have suffered eye injuries or been blinded by tear gas canisters and rubber bullets. This week, the police chief said he would fit firearms officers with surveillance cameras and deploy more human rights experts.

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