The Chilean government has declared a state of emergency after mass protests in the country. Photo: AFP

Chile has pulled out of hosting two major international summits as it struggles to restore order after more than 10 days of civil unrest that left at least 23 dead.

President Sebastian Pinera said “common sense” dictated the decision to withdraw from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, summit and the Cop 25 climate change conference.

US President Donald Trump was planning to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to lock down a “phase one” agreement at next month’s APEC forum that would partially have ended an 18-month trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

The White House confirmed it was looking forward to finalizing an agreement “within the same timeframe,” although analysts Eurasia Group said that may not happen until the end of the year.

APEC reported that it had supported Chile’s decision but gave no indication there would be a replacement summit this year, saying only that Malaysia would host the 2020 event.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin had also been due to attend the forum, while teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was among 25,000 delegates expected for COP 25.

After more than 10 days of street protests, Pinera said Chile was not in a position to host either the APEC summit or December’s climate convention.

The pullout is seen as a blow to Chile’s tourism industry, and the Santiago stock exchange dropped 2.8 points while the peso fell to its lowest rate against the dollar since 2003.

“This has been a very difficult decision, a decision that has been deeply painful because we know exactly how important APEC and COP are for Chile and the world,” Pinera said.

Demonstrators have demanded that the 69-year-old right-wing leader, whose personal fortune is estimated by Forbes at US$2.8 billion, step down.

“When a father has problems, he must always prioritize his family over other options. The same goes for a president, he must always put his own compatriots first, ahead of any other considerations,” he added.

Chile is grappling with its worst social crisis in decades, one that shows little sign of abating, despite Pinera announcing a raft of measures aimed at placating protesters.

Demonstrators have demanded that the 69-year-old right-wing leader, whose personal fortune is estimated by Forbes at US$2.8 billion, step down.

They have been angered by low salaries and pensions, poor public health care and education, and a yawning gap between rich and poor.

Last week, Pinera announced an increase in the minimum wage and pensions as well as measures to alleviate sky-high health care costs and a streamlining of public offices.

“I’m not rejecting any structural reform,” Pinera said earlier this week. “This is the time to listen to the people.”

On Monday, he reshuffled his cabinet for the third time since coming to power in March 2018, but the street movement continues.

Protests began on October 18 and during the first few days there was widespread destruction, arson and looting.

Demonstrations have been largely calm over the last week but there were violent clashes between demonstrators and security services on Monday, when shops were looted and a building set on fire.

Huge numbers took to the streets on Wednesday, with the country semi-paralyzed as numerous shops and businesses remained closed.

Canceling the two major international events is more likely to backfire than to placate the demonstrators, University of Chile analyst Octavio Avendano said. “It is a sign of weakness and a sharpening of the conflict,” Avendano added.


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