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John Authers

Chile's Violence Has a Worrisome Message for the World

The fact that protests are roiling one of Latin America's most prosperous nations suggests a similar situation could easily happen elsewhere.

Flames in Santiago should sound a global alarm.

Flames in Santiago should sound a global alarm.

Photographer: Javier Torres/AFP via Getty Images

If it can happen in Santiago, it could happen anywhere. That is the uncomfortable message that the rest of the world should take from the sudden breakdown of civil order in Chile, and unfortunately it is correct. 

The riots and vandalism of the last few days, which have sparked a state of emergency, a military response, and even a declaration by Chile’s president that the country is at war, have come in Latin America’s stablest and most prosperous nation. It had the longest uninterrupted democracy on the continent before the coup that installed Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship in 1973, and it has enjoyed uninterrupted democracy since his regime’s peaceful fall in 1990.