CNN reports that the rule of law is breaking down in Chile, as the government struggles to restore basic services after a massive earthquake and the resulting tsunami. “Looting broke out in parts of the country Sunday. Desperate residents scrounged for water and supplies inside empty and damaged supermarkets. Authorities used tear gas and water cannons to disperse looters. Chilean President-elect Sebastian Piñera, set to be sworn in this month, warned looting could grow worse and called for more government help in restoring order. “We will experience a very, very difficult situation with public order, particularly in the area of Concepcion,” Piñera told Radio Bio Bio. Americans who bristled at gun confiscations in post-Katrina New Orleans will be saying “see?” on this one. To wit . . .

In Concepcion, the Bio Bio region’s capital, there were not enough police to control all those seeking food and supplies from stores. Some became desperate as supermarkets closed and gas was unavailable, CNN Chile reported.

Stealing broke out not just at the hands of desperate residents, but by others who were opportunistic, Concepcion Mayor Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe said. “They are robbing everything,” she said, asking for a stronger military response as the police force was inadequate.

Looters targeted appliance and electronics stores in addition to food, gas and emergency supplies, Van Rysselberghe said.

Some small-business owners resorted to protecting shops with rifles and shotguns, she said.

As they would.

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