Chile pulled out of hosting two major international summits Wednesday as it struggled to restore order amid clashes between protestors and security forces that have left at least 20 dead.
President Sebastian Pinera said “common sense” had dictated the decision to withdraw from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and the Cop 25 climate change conference.
US President Donald Trump had said he was planning to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to lock down a “phase one” agreement at the November 16-17 APEC meeting that would partially have ended an 18-month trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
After more than 10 days of street protests, however, Pinera said the South American nation was not in a position to host that gathering or the December 2-13 climate convention.
“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,” said Pinera.
But he said “common sense” dictated that he had other priorities.
“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 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 $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.
Pinera announced last week 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.
On Monday he reshuffled his cabinet for the third time since coming to power in March 2018, but the street movement continues.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin had also been due to attend APEC, while teenage Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was among 25,000 delegates expected for COP 25.