October 28th Update: Violence continued over the weekend as millions took to the street of Santiago and Chile at large, but calm may finally find its way to the city this week. At least 20 people were killed by live fire during last weeks marches. The Chilean Government has now announced changes, sacking virtually all cabinet ministers, which with any hope will bring ease to the unrest during the week starting October 28th and restore calm to a city which badly needs it.
After months of unrest in Hong Kong, the world shifted its attention to Santiago, Chile, where riots throughout the city and surrounding suburbs have killed at least 20 people. The fight certainly isn’t against tourists, but as one of the most popular destinations in South America, and a gateway to many of the best outdoor areas of the continent, it’s important to know what to expect, and many are now wondering whether it’s still safe to go…
What’s Happening In Santiago, Chile?
Chile tops the list of developed nations with the greatest inequality between rich and poor. It’s beautiful, its cities are world class, but there’s immense cultural tension. Riots in the country began after a government proposal to raise metro transit prices, which acted as a catalyst to highlight the growing inequality in a nation already dealing with it in droves.
The proposals have since been shelved, but the damage was already done. To ease unrest, the President announced the sacking of all cabinet ministers, in hopes of forming a new government capable of addressing inequality. As of October 28th, the country is hoping for renewed peace.
Violent Protests All Around The City
Unfortunately, it’s been absolute chaos in Santiago, Chile with at least 20 deaths from police clashes with protestors. The government has called a state of emergency for the last week, but it’s hoping to end the curfew and emergency as soon as possible, as mass looting and rioting have calmed down. According to the BBC, more than 40 lootings have occurred and gunshots have been fired.
The unrest is centred around domestic issues, not tourists, but things aren’t exactly business as usual in Coquimbo, Biobío, Santiago or Valparaiso. Metro stations have been destroyed and all public transit in the city of Santiago is currently suspended. In other words: if you planned to use it, that’s not really currently possible.
With all hope, the city will return to some form of normalcy by the end of the week though.
Similarly, airlines have cancelled flights into and out of the city amidst the uncertainty. Metro stations are expected to reopen and things could get back to normal rather quickly, but for the time being, it’s just a bit chaotic to travel to the city for leisure purposes.
If your travel is more than 2 weeks into the future, there’s no reason to suspect clashes will continue, but if you’re headed there this week, you may want to consider alternative plans, or at least keep up to date on the developments.
How To Stay On Top Of The Situation
The US State Department offers updated travel advice, as does the UK Foreign Office. These two sources are excellent for up to date information on potential travel risks, and more importantly – what to do if you find yourself in a compromised position.
At the moment, Chile sits at “Level 1” in the US travel advisory system, which is the lowest possible rating a country can have, or rather – the best in terms of safety out of 4. The UK is a 2, and Syria is a 4, for comparison sake. Expect this number to change if unrest continues, and be sure to stay on top of the situation.