Chile: students resume marches for education reform

An estimated 20,000 Chilean secondary and university students marched through downtown Santiago on March 28 to call for free, high-quality education. This was the first major student demonstration of the new school year, continuing a series of demonstrations that started in 2011 to protest the privatization of secondary and higher education that started during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. At their high point in 2011 the marches brought hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and supporters to the streets and dramatically lowered the approval rating of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera; these were the largest demonstrations in Chile since the end of military rule.

The march, which began around 10:45 am at the University of Santiago, was authorized by the office of the metropolitan intendant (city supervisor). But according to Manuel Erazo, a university student leader, the authorities suddenly changed the route at 8 pm the night before, angering the students, who wanted to continue with the original route. Later, as has been common in these demonstrations, a group of masked youths appeared and confronted the police with rocks and clubs. Authorities said 60 people were arrested and one police agent was injured. Erazo told reporters that the movement blamed infiltrators from the carabineros militarized police for these incidents, which resulted in damage to cars and store display windows. (BBC News, March 28; La Jornada, Mexico, March 29, from correspondent)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 31.