Pope Francis yesterday launched an appeal for dialogue and an end to violent protests in Chile over economic inequality which have swept the country and claimed 15 lives.
“I am following what is happening in Chile with concern,” he said during a weekly general audience on Saint Peter’s Square.
“I hope that by putting an end to violent demonstrations dialogue can be used to to find solutions to the crisis and confront the difficulties that have generated it, for the sake of the entire population,” Francis added.
The violence -- widespread looting, arson and clashes with the 20,000 security forces deployed on the streets -- is the worst to hit Chile since it returned to democracy after the 1973-1990 rightwing dictatorship.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Tuesday announced a package of social measures aimed at stemming the protests, which began Friday over an increase in metro fares.
They quickly mushroomed into a broader outcry against social and economic woes, including a yawning gap between rich and poor, in a country normally considered one of the most stable in Latin America.
Chile’s human rights institute said more than 200 people had been taken to the hospital, almost half with gunshot wounds, while many others suffered eye injuries from pellets.
Since the unrest began, more than 2,600 people have been detained.