Be Happy, Feel Beautiful
In May, Chilean students began protesting together for a more affordable and better quality higher education. More recently, the protests have taken a dangerous turn as police and students have violently clashed numerous times.
According to BBC News, early last week, “police used tear gas and water cannon against masked protestors who set up barricades and threw petrol bombs.” Burning barricades were set up on main avenues to block rush hour traffic and a city bus was set on fire.
Student organization leaders, however, have condemned the violence, stating that this violence is of no relevance to their education reform protests. Some have questioned the possibility that “pro-government instigators are fostering trouble.”
More than 100,000 protestors have marched peacefully asking President Sebastián Piñera for an increase in the government’s role in the public education sector. Since the dictatorship that ruled Chile from 1973-1990, the education system has been privatized. As a result President Piñera, who at the moment has only a 30% approval rating, has insisted on providing subsidies for poor students who would not be able to afford the education without financial assistance. But for Chilean students, this is not enough. A free, quality education is a necessity as the protestors view the increasing student debt post-graduation as an intolerable obstacle.
In an unofficial referendum issued with more than 1.5 million participants, 88.7% voted in favor of free, quality higher education for all Chileans (BBC News).
Having protested and boycotted classes for nearly six months, the Chilean student protestors make the two-month Occupy Wall Street protests in the U.S. look like a short event.