Chile: students reject government’s new tax law

Chilean high school students occupied two important schools in Santiago on Aug. 13, after taking over at least eight public high schools the week before in a continuation of protests for educational reform that started more than a year ago. The students occupied the Barros Arana National Boarding School (INBA) and the prestigious High School of Implementation. They also tried to take over the José Miguel Carrera National Institute but gave up when police contingents arrived. Agents arrested 14 youths allegedly involved in the actions, which were supported by hundreds of students.

“We decided to give up on the takeover because of the police presence,” INBA student Diego Mellado said, “but if we have to go back to take over the school, we’re going to do it.” (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 14, from correspondent)

The student movement is demanding a reversal of the privatization of education that began during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Right-wing president Sebastián Piñera has responded to the students by proposing legislation that would raise corporate tax rates as part of a fiscal overhaul allowing the government to provide low-interest student loans. The Chamber of Deputies approved the measure during the second week of August with the support of some legislators from opposition parties, despite promises the parties’ leaders had made to students that they would vote against the bill. The bill still requires approval by the Senate. The student movement opposes Piñera’s “supposed education reform,” Federation of University of Chile Students (FECH) vice president Camila Vallejo wrote in an open letter to the senators, because “it simply maintains the commercial, privatizing and discriminatory logic of the current educational system.” (Prensa Latina, Aug. 14, via Adital)

Carabineros militarized police succeeded in ending three of the high school occupations on Aug. 16. Using tear gas and with the support of vehicles with water cannons, the agents stormed the Darío Salas, Miguel de Cervantes and Swiss Confederation schools. The Darío Salas occupiers left the building when the police arrived, but students in the other two schools resisted. Police arrested 132 people in the buildings and seven outside. Students reportedly occupied three other schools while the police operation was going on at Darío Salas, Miguel de Cervantes and Swiss Confederation. (EFE, Aug. 16, via Fox News Latina; LJ, Aug. 17, from correspondent)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 19.