(NEWS INVESTIGATORS) Chile will no longer host the next global climate change conference in December or the Asia-Pacific summit in November due to ongoing unrest in the country, President Sebastian Pinera said.
Nationwide protests, sparked by metro fare hikes before evolving into more general demonstrations against inequality, have claimed at least 20 lives and led to widespread destruction and looting.
Pinera announced a major cabinet reshuffle on Monday, firing his interior and finance ministers in a bid to stem the protests.
Diplomats had been due to congregate in Santiago for the climate conference from Dec. 2 to Dec. 13.
“Considering the difficult circumstances that our country has experienced in recent weeks, our government has decided not to host the APEC summit in November and the COP 25 in December,” Pinera told reporters at La Moneda government palace in the capital.
He said that the government should concern itself above all with keeping the peace and enforcing reforms designed to appease the protesters.
The UN Conference of the Parties (COP 25) climate summit is held annually as part of efforts to implement the goals of the Paris climate accord.
It took place last year in the Polish city of Katowice, attracting more than 20,000 participants.
The United Nations’ top official for climate change, Patricia Espinosa, said that she had been informed of the Chilean government’s decision.
She acknowledged “the difficult situation that the country is undergoing” and said that “alternative hosting options” were being looked into.
The U.S. and China, who were planning to sign an interim trade deal on the sidelines of the summit, will continue consultations, the Chinese Commerce Ministry said on Thursday.
The ministry further said that Chinese and U.S. trade teams had maintained communication and “will continue to promote consultations and other work as originally planned.”
“We look forward to finalising Phase One of the historic trade deal with China within the same time frame,” a White House spokesman said on Wednesday.
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is en route to the conference, said that she would have to wait for more information before continuing her journey from North America.
She sailed to New York in August and has been attending climate protests in the U.S. and Canada before a planned trip to Chile for the COP 25 conference.
Leaders of the 21 countries from the Pacific Rim, where about half of the world’s population lives, had also been due to meet in Santiago on Nov. 16 and Nov. 17 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
An estimated 1.2 million people took to the streets of the capital on Friday as part of the recent protest wave.
Demonstrations have been dogged by violence and vandalism, and security forces have cracked down heavily on protesters.
The unrest prompted the government to institute a state of emergency for 10 days, which was lifted on Monday. (dpa/NAN)