Under-Reported Story of the Week: Protests in Chile. The protests have been about a wide range of issues with the government but have centered around and been dominated by student protests about education issues. Thousands at a time have been marching through the streets of the capital of Santiago and in other cities throughout the country in recent days. The primary demand of the student protesters is a free public education system for all in Chile. They are joined by parents, teachers, and regular members of the community.
Yesterday, students of the Metropolitan Technological University in Santiago set up a flaming street barricade and clashed with police. In past days, the number arrested is nearly 1000. A BBC article calls these demonstrations, especially the night-time cacerolazos (“saucepan protests”) reminiscent of pro-democracy protests against General Pinochet in the 80s.
Today, the students received a verbal chiding from President Sebastian Pinera as he signed into law a bill meant to appease them.
We all want education, healthcare, and many more things for free, but I want to remind them that nothing is free in this life. Someone has to pay.
Opposition to Pinera, the first conservative president since Pinochet left power, is growing. Unions representing public sector workers and copper miners have vowed to join the students. His popularity is dropping with the protests in the past months, reaching an all-time low of 26% in a poll published last week. That’s the lowest rating for a Chilean president since 1990.
A protest against the Santiago mayor is being organized for August 16th and another massive protest also in Santiago for September 3rd. Organizers are hoping to draw half a million people.
Read news articles at Al Jazeera, Merco Press, and the BBC.
Photos: Banging pots and pans in caceralazos via Merco Press; students put up a fiery street barricade via Al Jazeera; thousands march in protest, Hector Retamel/AFP; protests in Santiago, AP via Merco Press