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Recent articles by Emilio Urtubia / Espartaco Gatti
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Chile: A new day of social protest for education
bolivia / peru / ecuador / chile | education | news report Friday August 12, 2011 06:40 by Emilio Urtubia / Espartaco Gatti - Periodico Solidaridad publicacion.solidaridad at gmail dot com
Who rules the roost? Those in government or those in struggle? 150,000 people march in Santiago and half a million throughout the country, against the education commodity. [Castellano]
Chile: A new day of social protest for education
On Tuesday 9th August, several roadblocks were set up in different parts of the city in the early morning (from 6.30 am on), preceding what would be the departure point for the march from in front of the University of Santiago at 10.30 am. This mobilization involved high school students, university students, children, adults and workers from various unions (healthcare, education, construction, etc.). The same was true in the other major cities - Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena, Valparaíso, Talca, Chillán, Concepción, Temuco, Valdivia, Puerto Montt and Punta Arenas, amongst others. According to the government and police, the demonstration exceeded 70,000 people in Santiago, however, the imposing demonstration clearly doubled that figure, with the organizers claiming reasonably to have brought together round 150,000 people (according to them 500,000 marched nationwide). There were also expressions of support internationally in cities in Spain, France, Uruguay and Argentina.
In Santiago, the huge wave of people who marched along a small stretch of La Alameda, Avenida Spain, Blanco Encalada and Roberto Espinoza streets, arriving at Parque Almagro, received many expressions of support from residents of the centre, who offered glasses of water, threw buckets of cold water from the buildings to cool the marchers on such a hot day, hung out banners, shouted messages of support, etc. This situation contrasted with the attitude of some residents of the residential building that was attacked by hooded protesters after they threw plates and sharp objects from their windows onto the crowd, triggering the anger of demonstrators.
After the march through the streets surrounding Santiago's main artery, which this time had been denied as a route for the march, several groups decided to head to the mall to get to the front of the presidential palace, clashing directly with the Special Police Forces. Then rioting broke out and the barriers cutting off the traffic were lifted, preventing the "deterrent" action of the police. The press did not delay - as usual - their criminalization of the social protest, seeking to divide the peak of the mobilizations all over the country, whose main demand is free, high-quality, non-profit making public education for people at all levels of education. So television, radio and internet news sites all stressed the damage to residential buildings (and the burning of a car), without mentioning that there were those who were opposed to the demonstrations, a tiny minority who threw bottles, hot water and other objects at demonstrators as they moved through the streets filled with tear gas, and where a policeman could be seen directing the repressive action from a rooftop. The Interior Minister, Rodrigo Hinzpeter, congratulated the police action and said that the student leaders could no longer control the demonstrations and should stand down. For his part, Undersecretary of the Interior Francisco Ubilla called for dialogue (albeit based on the governments meagre 21-point document and not the proposal of the students) and an end to street demonstrations.
In another aspect, Laura Ortiz, spokeswoman for the Coordinating Assembly of High School Students (ACES) invited Education Minister Bulnes to respond to the student petition, and "not to evade the central focus of the demands - free education and re-nationalization of the copper industry", as reported by the news portal "El Ciudadano".
At 9.00pm, there was a repeat throughout the country of the cacerolazos, in Rancagua, Iquique, Valdivia, Chiloé, Santiago, Temuco, Valdivia, Valparaíso, Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Copiapó, Rengo, Arica, La Serena and a great many other places. In Santiago there were marches, cacerolazos, roadblocks, barricades, riots and even looting in various neighbourhoods, not only in the most deprived but also in neighborhoods considered "middle class" (where many families directly affected by the debt for higher education fees live). Macul, Puente Alto, La Florida, Estación Central, Santiago Centro, Pudahuel, La Granja, San Joaquín, Pedro Aguirre Cerca, Huechuraba, Providencia and La Reina were some of the communities where people came out en masse to show their discontent. The day of social protest ended with 273 arrestees, 23 police officers and 16 civilians wounded.
The government is desperately seeking to curb the broad movement struggling for education. The current Education Minister, Felipe Bulnes, today unveiled a plan for "re-take classes" for students who do not want to lose the school year. The Minister's plan proposes 3 solutions that aim to divide and split the movement that showed today that it is stronger than ever:
Translation by FdCA-International Relations Office.