In a national address from the Moneda Palace in Santiago on Monday evening, the conservative billionaire said that he would hold a meeting with opposition leaders on Tuesday to adopt the “new social contract,” which he said would help find solutions to problems afflicting Chilean people.
He spoke in a conciliatory tone, in contrast to remarks on Sunday in which he said the country was “at war” with “delinquents” in a broad reference to protesters.
“If sometimes I have spoken harshly… it’s because it makes me indignant to see the damage and pain that this violence causes,” he said.
Protests began in Chile last Friday, sparked by a hike in transport fares. Looting and violent protests left 11 people dead over the weekend.
Unrest continued on Monday, with thousands of people staging marches around Santiago in protest at the high costs of living and calling for Pinera’s ouster.
“Pinera, listen! Go to hell!” they chanted.
Police used water cannon and tear gas against the protesters, who defied a night curfew.
Chile president extends emergency as death toll risesChile’s death toll has risen to 11, authorities say, after three days of violent demonstrations and looting that saw President Sebastian Pinera claim the country was “at war.”
In his Monday address, Pinera said “small groups” of vandals had looted shops and small businesses, requiring a reconstruction plan that would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“We want to repair not only the physical damage but also the moral damage that these acts of violence have caused in the body and soul of our country,” he added.
The Chilean leader also promised to find ways to reduce the costs of basic services such as electricity and highway tolls, improve the country’s pension offerings, and reduce the price of medication.
“I am very conscious that this is a first step and we have a long way to go,” he said.
On Monday, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, said there were “disturbing allegations of excessive use of force” by security forces and urged independent probes into the deaths.
According to Chile’s Institute of Human Rights, some 1,333 people have been arrested in the protests, including 181 children and adolescents.