By Brendan Oliver Bergh
Impunity Watch Reporter, South America
SANTIAGO, Chile — Approximately 70,000 Chileans marched in Santiago and eight other cities, demanding free quality education for the entire population of Chile. The students have advocated for a stronger public education sector and an end to state subsidies to private education.
The march, while intended to peacefully influence the budget bill of 2013, ended with violent clashes with the police. At least 59 individuals were arrestedt by special police forces after the protest. Noam Titelman, president of the Federation of Catholic University Students of Chile explains, “[we are] mobilizing because we believe that so far there has been no real debate about public education.” He continues to demand that if the politicians want to earn the respect and participation of the young than they need to address their needs.
The movement still seems to have broad public support despite the length of the protest. The message of fair and free public education seems to have resonated with demonstrators elsewhere in the world. Other Latin American countries have seen students challenge their education systems, causing some to raise the Chilean flag as an example.
The government claims that the private sector involvement should be welcomed, however only 16% of higher education spending comes from public sources and three-quarters of Chile’s universities are privately owned. This privatization continues to high school as less than half of Chile’s students go to fully state-funded schools.
The first clash occurred when masked and hooded individuals threw objects at uniformed police. In response Special Police Forces used water cannons and tear gas on the protesters, those peaceful and disruptive alike.
The remaining protesters made their way to the staging area to hear the leaders of the movement speak and listen to local bands. And while students claim that they had at least 70,000 attendees, the police estimate only about 5,000 protesters.
The Chilean government has refused to respond to all the demands of the movement. In response students have planned two new protests on October 11 and 16. According to spokesman of the National coordinator of Secondary Students, Cristofer Saravia, “The 2013 budget… affects us, [and] is a small battle in the middle of our great struggle for a change in the structure of Chilean education.” He and other student leaders have promised to continue protesting until their demands to increase in the allocation of resources for public education in the National budget are met.
Of the 59 arrested, 23 were adults and 36 were minors.
For further information, please see:
Cooperativa – Amounted To 70,000 Students Attending The March In Santiago – 27 September 2012
La Segunda – Incidents Are Recorded At The End Of The Student March – 27 September 2012
Peoples Daily Online – Chilean Students March For Education Retake – 27 September 2012
The BBC – Chile’s Student Protests Show Little Sign Of Abating – 24 October 2011