SANTIAGO • Chile has withdrawn as host of next month's Apec trade summit and the COP25 climate summit in December after a wave of protests and riots stretched security forces to the limit.
President Sebastian Pinera announced the cancellations yesterday.
"We understand perfectly the importance of Apec and COP for Chile and the world, but we have based our decision on common sense," Mr Pinera said from the presidential palace. "A president needs to put his people above everything else."
US President Donald Trump had said he would sign a preliminary trade accord with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Nov 16-17 summit, although the deal might not be completed by then, a US administration official said on Tuesday.
Chile's decision to cancel the meeting highlights the depth of trouble facing the Latin American nation which has seen the worst unrest in a generation. Until just two days ago, the government had insisted it would go ahead with the summit.
Riots, arson and protests over inequality this month have left at least 18 dead, with 7,000 arrested and Chilean businesses hit with losses of around US$1.4 billion (S$1.9 billion). The capital city's metro public transport suffered nearly US$400 million in damage.
With Mr Pinera's popularity at an all-time low, Chileans were calling for new protests and the United Nations was sending a team to investigate allegations of human rights abuses.
Mr Pinera said the government had spoken to other leaders to warn them of the cancellation.
But Chile's cancellation of the Apec summit caught the White House by surprise, a White House official told Reuters.
The official said Washington learnt about the decision from news reports and is seeking more information.
Mr Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other top US officials have all said good progress was being made on the interim trade deal after a nearly 16-month trade war, while also noting that it would be fine if the deal was not finalised by the time of the Apec summit.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said both sides were still working to complete the interim deal.
The UN said it was looking at other options for the climate talks.
The UN climate change executive secretary Patricia Espinosa said in a brief statement: "Earlier today, I was informed of the decision by the government of Chile not to host COP25 in view of the difficult situation the country is undergoing. We are currently exploring alternative hosting options."