'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Friday, August 05, 2011

Student Protests Intensify in Chile 

I'm not that informed about this, but, in light of this appeal for support, I thought that it would be a good idea to post some excerpts from some articles about what is currently transpiring in Chile:

Protesters have clashed violently with police in Chile's capital to decry President Sebastián Pinera's policies, as a poll showed him to be the least popular leader in the two decades since the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.

Demonstrators led by students demanding cheaper and better state education blocked roads and lit fires as police used water cannons and tear gas to quell the latest outcry against the conservative billionaire.

Some protesters in Santiago and as far afield as Copiapo in the far north started banging pots and pans in a "cacerolazo", a popular form of protest in Latin America reminiscent of Chile's 1973-1990 dictatorship. The term cacerolazo was the world's top trending topic on Twitter on Thursday night.

Over 552 people have been detained across the country. According to wikipedia, students are protesting proposed neoliberal education reforms that run contrary to their demands for a more egalitarian educational system. Such protests appear to be an extension of protests centered around almost identical issues in 2008.

Here is another account of yesterday's protests:

Riot police in the Chilean capital, Santiago, have used tear gas and water cannon to break up demonstrations by students demanding educational reform.

Dozens were detained as they tried to march to the city centre despite a warning that the protest was illegal.

Chile has seen weeks of rallies by students and teachers demanding reform and more investment in education.

President Sebastian Pinera has pledged extra funding, but student leaders say his offer is not enough.

Protesters are calling for the government to take control of the country's public education system, saying the current system is underfunded and unequal.

Riot police moved to clear the demonstrators as they tried to rally in Santiago's Plaza Italia in the city centre. At least 130 students were arrested, while two police officers were reportedly injured in the scuffles.

Students and teachers apparently want the end of the privatized educational system imposed by the Pinochet dictatorship:

Students demand the end of the school voucher system in pre-school, primary and secondary levels and the end of the current public university financing policy, that mixes deliberate underfinancing, a shadow toll called Indirect State Payment (Aporte Fiscal Indirecto, in Spanish), high parents' payments even in public universities (tuition fees in private and state universities are about the same), and a state-guaranteed loan scheme that allow private banks to finance already high tuition fees. The Chilean system, although defended by researchers linked to the Heritage Foundation, is criticized by researchers like Martin Carnoy, blaming on it the tremendous inequalities across all the Chilean educational system, measured by OECD's standards. Chile only spends 4.4% of GDP on education, compared to the 7% of GDP recommended by the UN for developed nations.

The students want those systems replaced by a true publicly financed and managed education system, covering from pre-school to tertiary education. Some segments of the student movement have called for other changes, such as a new constitution or the renationalization of Chile's copper resources in order to fund public education.

Given that the current educational system is an essential component of the neoliberal social order in Chile, and an obvious profit center for lenders, it is hard to imagine how it can be dismantled in the absence of a broader, more ambitious protest movement.

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