Joined by mineworkers and other supporters, tens of thousands of Chilean students marched in Santiago on June 28 to protest the highly privatized educational system put in place during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The protesters say the government of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera is stalling in talks over their demand for free, high-quality education, a demand that triggered a seven-month student strike in 2011. Despite rain and cold weather, the march was the largest demonstration so far in the current school year, according to organizers, who estimated the crowd at 120,000. There were also protests in other cities, including Concepción, Copiapó, Valparaíso and Valdivia.
As has happened repeatedly in marches by Chilean students, the generally peaceful and festive demonstration ended with acts of vandalism by hooded youths. Police agents used tear gas and water cannons on protesters and arrested dozens.
A week before the June 28 protest, the Chamber of Deputies’ Committee on Education issued a report showing that seven supposedly nonprofit private universities and one public institution had circumvented laws that require them to reinvest any profits back into the institutions. In some of the cases, the universities set up “mirror corporations” which owned the buildings used by the schools and charged them rent. The legislative committee referred the schools to Public Ministry head Sabás Chaguán, who will appoint a special prosecutor “due to the magnitude of the apparent crimes.” (AP, June 28, via Terra.com; La Jornada, Mexico, June 29, from correspondent)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 1.