Friday, October 7th 2011 - 05:52 UTC

Violent clashes in Santiago as students-government negotiations break down

Chilean students marched in downtown Santiago Thursday, clashing with police and blocking traffic for much of the day, after negotiations with the government over education reforms broke down.

Vallejo accused the government of unprecedented use of force

“This has been one of the most violent marches” after four months of demonstrations, newspaper La Tercera quoted Santiago Mayor Pablo Zalaquett as saying.

Chilean police used water cannons and tear gas to break up the student march demanding free public education. A huge deployment of riot police surrounded students in the Plaza Italia, Santiago's traditional gathering place, where student leader Camila Vallejo tried to lead the march while holding a sign saying “United and Stronger,” only to be pummelled by water cannons and forced to retreat by tear gas.

Protesters hurled rocks at police and set blockades ablaze in the streets as officers on horseback chased students onto nearby campuses. Vallejo said officers shot tear gas into their student government offices in “a direct attack against our organization.”

Students occupied the Alameda, one of Santiago's main avenues, by dancing in large numbers, but were blasted with water from police. Small groups managed to elude officers and approach the presidential palace before being beaten back by police.

The regional governor, Cecilia Perez, said 132 people were arrested and 25 officers and five civilians were injured. At least half-dozen journalists were arrested. She called this “lamentable” and said their arrests would be investigated.

Thursday's march was the 37th weekly protest since the movement against Chile's largely privatized education system in began in April, demanding more spending and higher taxes on the wealthy so that quality public education can be free for all.

With both sides accusing the other of intransigence, Chile's government has focused on criminalizing the protests, proposing tough new penalties including up to three years in prison for occupying schools and other public places.

Vallejo called the police crackdown unprecedented, even for a movement that for five months has seen initially peaceful mass marches dissolve into isolated but violent confrontations between hooded demonstrators and helmeted, baton-wielding police.

“We're sure that we represent the great majority of Chileans,” Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said Thursday as he defended the government plan to penalize the peaceful occupation of schools and other places, and enable police to demand images taken by photographers and camera crews without a judicial warrant.

Polls show 89% of Chileans support the students' call for reform, and only 30% support President Sebastian Piñera performance. The president finally agreed to let the students sit down with his education minister, Felipe Bulnes, to discuss their core complaint: that private institutions benefit from public funding while public institutions are starved for resources.

Bulnes said the protesters' proposal was regressive and would mean “that the poor subsidize the education of the richest.”

“Neither do we want the poorest to finance the richest, but that the richest finance the poor and middle class. How? Through tax reform,” Vallejo countered.

The government has proposed increasing scholarships for the poorest Chileans, but Vallejo said that won't solve this as long as taxpayer money flows unequally to profit-making institutions
The student federation, known as Confech, will vote Oct. 8 whether to continue talks with the government after its leaders disagreed with Education Minister Felipe Bulnes.

“I’ve told students on numerous occasions that working under the logic of all or nothing, will not lead to progress,” Bulnes said in images transmitted on state television. “They can’t base structural reform on free education for all students.”

19 comments Feed

Note: Comments do not reflect MercoPress’ opinions. They are the personal view of our users. We wish to keep this as open and unregulated as possible. However, rude or foul language, discriminative comments (based on ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or the sort), spamming or any other offensive or inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. Please report any inadequate posts to the editor. Comments must be in English. Thank you.

1 M_of_FI (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 11:39 am Report abuse
I seem to remember Argies denouncing the riots in England and claiming that protests in South America were now only peaceful. Just proves how full of it they really are.
2 yankeeboy (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 01:06 pm Report abuse
The only reason there is no bloodshed in Arg is because most of the protets are organized by CFK. They allow them to destroy pubic property and the private property of their enemies. Most of the protests are gov't sponsored, the only one I remember that was big was when a nice white kid from the suburbs was kidnapped and killed. I think his name was Axel. The father at first held vigils then the crowds grew and grew. He was going to run for office and since he had a real grass roots populous base Nestor had him destroyed. They ruined him politically, financially and I am sure physically threatened him and his family.
In Arg these protests are all political theater with most of the protesters bused in, given a choripan and a beer to cheer or destroy on CFK or her minion's whim. It is a crock. The problem is sometimes they get out of control, like when the economy starts to falter, so she better already have a house in Miami to flee to and keep the helicopters ready at Casa Rosada because it is not too far off now.
3 Philippe (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 01:12 pm Report abuse
Pretty Camila Vallejo is becoming more and more a bourgeois specimen.
She needs to be sent urgently to Cuba for a re-education session!

4 ElaineB (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 01:36 pm Report abuse
@2 Certainly I know a chap working for a government institution who is regularly sent to locations to protest and told what to shout. He doesn't understand it or want to do it but he does want to keep his job.

Last time I was in BsAs - just a few months back - the hotel where I was staying was attacked and damaged by a mob. The Argentine hotel staff were also attacked but no one seemed to know why. I was escorted out of a back entrance to a waiting car to take me to the airport - very dramatic. Mostly I remember how embarrassed the Argentines were about the behaviour of the mob.

Regarding Chile, I support the improvement of the education system because it is heavily weighted against poor students. Improvements in education lifts the whole country and its' ability to grow and prosper.
Many school owners are making a lot of money and providing sub-standard education in return. I saw an the island home of one of these owners and I had to suppress the urge to sink all three of his boats.
But no government can be seen to give into violence. It is the wrong method and the students will lose support.
5 Marcos Alejandro (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 03:51 pm Report abuse
4 ElaineB , “Regarding Chile, I support the improvement of the education”
How would you do that? You can't speak the language nor you understand the people down here.

Would you want to be a stuck up rich English girl flying first class or a girl who loves the outdoors and lives an average life. Get off your rich throne and
change your superiority attitude, you are not better than anyone else.
Great job Camila!
6 GeoffWard2 (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 07:07 pm Report abuse
I think you will find that Elaine is at least bi-lingual, unless I'm very much mistaken, and she would be very able to 'support the improvement of (Chile's) education' by using her undoubted skills in report-writing to best advantage.

For instance, I watched today the BBC World Service report on the violence in Chile; whoever prepared the air-time and comment had certainly been briefed by one such as her.

Elaine may be a stringer, a freelance or an employee (or something entirely different);
if earning enough, or an employee, she could well be flying Executive Class. And what's wrong with that? Nothing.

Also , Marcos, you say that “she is not better than anybody else”.
She may not be better than everybody else, but she is certainly 'better than' a very large number of people.

Better that you define 'better than what, better at what, etc'
but be careful; once you define it, you may well find that she is 'better' than you.
7 briton (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 07:56 pm Report abuse
Dare we say it,
The domino effect, if it can happen in North Africa in an Arab spring,
Let’s hope we don’t get a South American winter,
Does south America have many dictators, that may need changing ?
just a thought .
8 xbarilox (#) Oct 07th, 2011 - 10:26 pm Report abuse
@ 5 “How would you do that? You can't speak the language nor you understand the people down here.” #5 wants to help the Palestinians and he doesn't speak arabic but he tells other people what to do :)

“Would you want to be a stuck up rich English girl flying first class or a girl who loves the outdoors and lives an average life. Get off your rich throne and
change your superiority attitude, you are not better than anyone else.” hahaha you are full of resentment, you hate elaine because you know she's a good person and you wish she was like you full of hatred and resentment. You're right, she´s superior and you are inferior. While this lady flies around the world, you stay in front of your computer all day lonely and stupid old man.
I love when these losers like #5 show their real face instead of acting like they are all secure and calm :)

“Great job Camila” yeah, great job Camila, you're gonna get nothing from this.

Bleed bleed bleed #5 :)

If I were Piñera I'd do what must be done, put them to rest. Those need law and order.
9 Marcos Alejandro (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 06:14 am Report abuse
Marta Lagos(Chile)
“@xBarilox Lo correcto toma años de civilizacion. Yo tb voto por lo correcto”
She doesn't need your vote...الأحمق
10 ElaineB (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 12:01 pm Report abuse
@6. I think you will understand perfectly why I do not reveal the exact nature of my work. : )

There is no doubt the education system in Chile needs reform. Chileans have spoken about it for years, way before the recent protests. I recently visited a foundation in Santiago that sponsors students through university. We talked at length about the inequality of the system and the poor standards of free education available to the majority of students. This is a key issue for the development of the country.

A more educated workforce is essential to make businesses more competitive. More and better education is also the single most important tool in creating equality of opportunity.

You have to look further into the recent history of Chile to understand why reform, which would benefit the whole country, is being heavily politicised and undermined by both sides of the political spectrum.

Reform still has majority support but the more the violence continues the less appetite people will have for it.
11 GeoffWard2 (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 12:21 pm Report abuse
Thanks, Elaine,
I'm beginning to piece together a more 'on-the-ground' picture of the declared problem and the underlying condition.
Some posters here are helping me re-balance the BBC/CNN/Mercopress perspectives.
Often it is the things that people do not say (for a variety of reasons) that are the key to an understanding - once you can find a way to win their perspectives.
I am modifying my position, helped by you, Sergio, and one or two others.
But it would certainly help to have a bigger and wider set of opinions than are offered here on Mercopress.
12 ElaineB (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 02:11 pm Report abuse
Geoff, I am certain you have a much more in depth understanding of the mechanics of reforming an education system. I very much enjoyed the report on education in Brazil.

In the case of Chile, the education system is strongly linked to social class.

Each country is unique but in Chile one's name and background can set your path in life. This information is used to 'place' a person. (The Chileans have a word for it that eludes me for now). This social structure is mirrored in the education system and perpetuates the status quo.

Reforming the education system to allow more equal opportunity would be the first step to breaking down the barriers for social mobility and more equal distribution of wealth. And that in itself is devisive.

It does not help that there is huge distrust (and dare I say hatred) between the left and right of politics.
13 Think (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 02:13 pm Report abuse
(6) GeoffWard
You say:
”I think you will find that Elaine is at least bi-lingual, unless I'm very much mistaken, and she would be very able to 'support the improvement of (Chile's) education' by using her undoubted skills in report-writing to best advantage.”

I say:
Suuuure…, suuure…....................… She is a very important person…
Permit me to scuttle away in horror, ewh… ewh….
14 Fido Dido (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 04:04 pm Report abuse
Camila is doing a good job. If you take a good look at the Chilean educational system that tries hard to claim that it's so great, you will find out yourself that it's total failure. Pinera has the opportunity to fix it for it's people, but fact is, he isn't interested to solve that problem, because it's corporate president, from the begin he took office.
15 ElaineB (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 04:36 pm Report abuse
I wouldn't call it a total failure because it serves some students very well. The problem is that it is weighted against the underclass.

This is not a recent problem. People were complaining about it under the last government, and the one before. It might be worth considering why it has become a huge issue now when it has been a problem for decades.
16 Marcos Alejandro (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 04:40 pm Report abuse
“it serves some students very well” Friend of yours?
17 geo (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 05:23 pm Report abuse
here is not only Chile problem .....we see that all other countries
have similair education problems...we see that the parasite private
schools sectors have derivated since years... we know that
this storm has been imposed by World Bank to all emerging countries..

we know that the intentions to hold up /control the target countries
by way of few elites who educated in the casted private schools system...

we know that the intentions to hold up/control the target youth who
want to jump social class by private schools tools under the debit of them.
18 Think (#) Oct 08th, 2011 - 05:44 pm Report abuse
(10) Correcting ElaineB’s “Fleur de Rhétorique”

She says:
“Reform still has majority support but the more the violence continues the less appetite people will have for it.”

I say:
Reform has a huge majoritarian support and the more the Government Violence continues the more appetite people will have for it.
19 Pedro (#) Oct 11th, 2011 - 06:06 pm Report abuse
So Camila demands that private education be abolished. At the same time she complains about the bad Government education. So - destroy what is good so that everything can be mediocre. That is equal non-opportunity for all. Wow logical hey! Go Camila!

Commenting for this story is now closed.
If you have a Facebook account, become a fan and comment on our Facebook Page!


Get Email News Reports!

Get our news right on your inbox.
Subscribe Now!