Walmart Chile requests state protection to prevent further damage to stores
Walmart Chile has requested the government provide protection for its stores amid widespread civil unrest in the country over recent weeks.
Many of Walmart-owned Líder supermarkets around the country have been looted and set on fire since mass demonstrations began in late October.
The protests were sparked by a now-suspended increase in the metro fare, but rapidly expanded to reflect many Chileans' anger in one of South America's most prosperous yet most unequal nations. Numerous businesses of different sizes have been affected by looting and arson.
In a statement on Monday, Walmart Chile said it "profoundly regrets the violent acts" that have affected Chile over recent weeks.
"As a company we have suffered more than 1,200 episodes of looting and fires, which have affected more than 128 sites," it said.
According to the company, 34 supermarkets have been set alight, 17 of which were completely lost.
It went on to say that it must take the "necessary protective legal and physical measures" to ensure that its operations can continue.
"Walmart Chile has therefore decided to request state protection, with a mechanism to comply with this objective," it said.
The company added that it does not hold the state responsible for the damages it has incurred, but says that it should provide the necessary protection.
"As a company we have focused on recovering our operations, as we understand the social role that we have, especially in areas where there are no alternatives for the supply of basic products."
The cases of looting and arson over recent weeks have come amid the country's worse unrest since its return to democracy in 1990 following nearly two decades of military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.
In late-October, President Sebastian Piñera declared a state of exception, deploying the military to the streets and imposing a curfew for several nights. Those measures have since been lifted, and Piñera has promised a new constitution for the country - one of the protesters' central demands.
There has also been widespread travel disruption and strikes at ports nationwide which have affected the fruit indsutry as the summer fruit season gets underway.