Socialist Worker

Protests in Chile against the state

by Sam Bogg
Issue No. 2264

Thousands marched in the Chilean capital city Santiago on Thursday of last week in response to government attempts to ban student marches.

Students have been protesting for free education.

Riot police used water cannons, tear gas and horse charges to stop protesters reaching the presidential palace, arresting 874 in their efforts to maintain control.

More than 200 students peacefully occupied Chilevision television studios until producers allowed them to communicate their demands live.

On the streets, students and lecturers grouped at Santiago’s Plaza Italia.

They built barricades and roadblocks to stop police, bringing the city to a standstill.

Just ten days before, 400,000 marched against profit-making, private universities.

The latest opinion polls show that 80 percent of the public supported the demand.

Earlier in the week, billionaire president Sebastian Pinera unveiled partial reforms to try and stop the protests.

The reforms offered to put the right to quality education in the constitution. But several student and teachers’ unions rejected them—and pledged to continue strikes and demonstrations.

Government spokesperson Andres Chadwick said, “The students do not own the streets.” But they do seem to be in control of them.

The student protests are just one face of the struggle in Chile. Recent months have seen demonstrations against the building of hydropower dams in the south and a one-day strike in all state-owned copper mines over pay and job cuts. This was followed by a 15-day strike in the private Escondida mine, the largest copper mine in the world.

President Pinera now has the lowest approval rating of any president since the fall of the dictatorship. He is being called a “lame duck” in the wake of strong opposition to his neoliberal agenda.

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Tue 9 Aug 2011, 18:01 BST
Issue No. 2264
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