Chile: student protests face repression

On Aug. 22, hundreds of Chilean students clashed with police in the capital, Santiago, and in the northern city of Copiapo. In Santiago, at least 1,000 students marched toward the La Moneda presidential palace and the Education Ministry building; police used water cannons to break up the march, and arrested 114 students and nine adults. In Copiapo, police arrested 98 protesters. (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 23 from AFP; Miami Herald, Aug. 26 from AP)

The students were pressing the government to speed up reforms promised after massive protests in May and early June. Those protests led President Michelle Bachelet to appoint a 72-member presidential advisory panel, including 12 students, to create proposals to reform Chile’s education law, passed under the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990). The proposals are supposed to be presented in September, but students complain that the advisory panel is making slow progress. Student leaders were to meet over the weekend of Aug. 26 to decide whether to withdraw from the panel.

The government responded to the Aug. 22 protests by announcing it would expedite a decree creating a low-fare student transport credential which would be valid all day and all week. It also confirmed 200,000 improved food rations this year and 300,000 more in 2007, and announced that 165,000 students finishing high school this year will not have to pay for college admission tests.

On Aug. 25, some 1,500 Chilean students marched toward the national Congress in the port city of Valparaiso to protest delays in implementing the reforms. Police dispersed the protest with tear gas and water cannons; 67 students were detained and one officer was injured, apparently hit by a rock. (MH, Aug. 26 from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 27

See our last posts on Chile and the student struggle.