Pope Francis

Pope Francis launched an appeal on Wednesday for peace and dialogue in Chile, where violent anti-government protests have claimed 15 lives.

“I am following with concern what is happening in Chile,’’ Francis, who hails from neighbouring Argentina, said during his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square.

“I hope that by putting an end to the violent demonstrations. The dialogue will be used to find solutions to the crisis and to deal with the difficulties that have generated it, for the benefit of the entire population,’’ he added.

The unrest in Chile was triggered by metro price hikes, but protesters have also been complaining about inequality, low salaries, and pensions, lack of educational opportunities and corruption.

President, Sebastian Pinera has cancelled the metro price increases and announced a welfare reform package on Tuesday including higher pensions and minimum wages and lower medicine prices.

However, large protests rallies, with reported clashes and looting, still took place in several cities, and night-time curfews were imposed in Santiago, Valparaiso, Concepcion, Rancagua and elsewhere.