Student leaders, the opposition and several judges expressed outrage this week after Chilean President Sebastián Piñera proposed on Sunday to reform the Penal Code to impose harsher punishments on those involved in the occupation of schools and universities, newspaper La Tercera reported.
Piñera’s announcement took place only three days after the resumption of dialogue between the government and student leaders, who have held a five-month fight for free and quality education.
The bill would make some key modifications to the Penal Code so that the occupation of educational premises, looting and the interruption of traffic would be considered felonies. Students occupying schools or universities could get up to three years in jail as punishment.
Student demonstrations made Piñera popularity plummet to a record-low 22%, while students and their demands have the support of 89% of Chileans.
Student leader Giorgio Jackson said that most occupations of university buildings have been peaceful “so it makes no sense for the punishment to go from 541 days to three years in jail. It is nonsense” he said.