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Chilean peso drops to historic low amid weeks-long crisis

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Santiago (AFP)

Chile's currency dropped more than five percent on Tuesday to a record low of 800 peso to the dollar after weeks of mass street protests that have left the South American country in crisis.

The peso had already neared the record of 761 -- from October 10, 2002 -- at close of trading on Monday night when it reached 760 to the dollar.

The peso has been hit hard by nearly four weeks of protests against the economic policies of right-wing President Sebastian Pinera.

It was trading at 709 to the dollar on October 18 when the protests erupted into violence.

"It's a sign of concern that we're looking at closely," said Finance Minister Ignacio Briones.

The peso's fall comes as Chile braced for new protests with more than 100 organizations calling a general strike on Tuesday.

Briones said the currency fluctuation would "have an impact on prices, inflation and the entire portfolio of goods we consume."

The Santiago stock exchange had fallen 3.38 percent by midday.

In a statement, the central bank said the peso's drop was "expected in the context of the greater uncertainty that we're seeing."

Analysts Capital Economics said the peso's fall and Tuesday's strikes would "push up inflation" and predicted that sustained unrest would weaken growth, which it said would be lower than its previously downgraded prediction of 2.5 percent.

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