Chilean ruling coalition blocks in Congress report on profiteering of education institutions
Chilean student leaders and opposition politicians vowed to protest last week’s ruling by the Chamber of Deputies to reject the findings of a report on the profiteering of education institutions in the country. The controversial subject matter was decided by a razor-thin margin, with 46 in favour, 45 against and one abstention.
The report claimed that seven Chilean private universities broke a law that forbids them to profit from education provision.
“For the first time a state body was going to recognize that there had been profiteering in education, but it is a tremendous frustration that it was not achieved, and is a bad sign for Chilean families,” said Dep. Alejandra Sepúlveda, president of the committee that submitted the report.
Faced with the failure of Congress to recognize the validity of the report, Sepúlveda confirmed she would proceed with the impeachment of Education Minister Harald Beyer, who she has accused of acting irresponsibly toward the subject of profiteering.
President of the Federation of Students of Universidad Católica (FEUC) Noam Titelman expressed his regret at the outcome of the vote but maintained that the mobilized student movement would not slow down.
“We believe it is important to remain forceful, we will not go home because we know that it is essential to continue demanding that those who are consistently violating the law will have to pay” Titelman said.
During the vote, some students led protests, as they have been since 2011, to demand greater equality in public education and an end to profiteering.
One of those present at the protests, Camila Vallejo, the vice president of the Federation of Chilean Students (Fech), criticized the politicians from the conservative Alianza coalition who rejected the report’s findings. In an interview with radio ADN, Vallejo said the coalition engaged in “mafia practices, even pressuring one deputy from the Alianza who was going to vote in favour of the report to abstain.”
“We were surprised by the position taken by the Alianza,” Vallejo said. “And not only pressure brought on by the deputies and Congress, but also by the administration itself.”
President of the Communist Party (PC) Dep. Guillermo Teillier said he valued the findings of the investigative committee and criticized the position of the Alianza and the administration, echoing Vallejo’s statements.
“It is undeniable that in Chile we have a government that defends profiting from higher education through a ‘cabinet of profit’ that is not ready to give up indefensible practices,” Tellier said.
In the face of heavy criticism, however, Alianza deputies affirmed their conviction for their rejection.
“The conclusions issued in the report do not come from a concrete background,” Dep. Germán Becker, of the centre-right National Renovation Party (RN), said. “It is possible that there is profiteering, but the findings do not confirm anything.”
The committee’s investigation lasted seven months and said universities had elevated the salaries of directors and executives, practiced nepotism and had been involved in the outsourcing of important services and utilities to companies for profit.
By Tom Murphy - The Santiago Times