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Chilean Students Demand Free Education as a Human Right (article & photo essay)
By Les Blough in Venezuela. Axis of Logic
Axis of Logic
Friday, Aug 10, 2012

One year ago, August 9, 2011 the Chilean student protests came to a head. 100,000 courageously took the streets of Santiago and demanded free education for all as a human right, from primary school through university. They were joined by professors and educators and 273 were arrested. At that time, Camila Vallejo, the elected president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile and one of the main leaders of the national protests, declared,

“We need quality education for everyone. It is a right. Chilean society cannot move forward without it.”

During the 17 year rule of US-backed dictator Augusto Pinochet, Chile's educational system was privatized and since he was overthrown in 1990, the system of privatization in place has continued to this day. Private, for profit education is protected by the constitution written by the Pinochet regime and capitalists have exploited it thoroughly at the expense of the Chilean people. Only 45% of high school students study in traditional public schools where the quality of education is poor. The other 55% study in private schools where the owners profit from heavy government subsidies.

A student wears a mask depicting the late dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Photo: Luis Hidalgo

The students have continued their protests over the past year and in April 2012 over 50,000 students took the streets in protest. On June 28 the police attacked them again when they took the streets and damages of over a million pesos was the result.

On June 29 student marched en-masse in Santiago

Once again, on the one year anniversary of the protests yesterday they took the streets again. The Chilean robocops in body armor attacked them violently with water cannons, tear gas, beatings and arrests of 75 protestors.

The students responded by setting city buses afire after removing the passengers on General Bustamante between Marin and Ramón Carnicer, as the crowd marched carrying banners and placards. Authorities denied their application for permission to march and they marched anyway.

Students have seen through the "education reforms" proposed by Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, saying that they will not fix a privatized system that leaves remaining public schools with poor quality education and expensive expensive private high schools and universities. They know that privatization of the human right to quality education must be dismantled and cannot be fixed through "reforms." They have declared that the system of privatization only leads to the rich affording to buy education, becoming richer, while the poor become increasingly uneducated and impoverished. One student leader told the Santiago times:

“We are here to protest for free education. Here in Chile there is still a lot of inequality. There is a lot of wealth, but wrongly distributed. The rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.”

Gabriel Boric, president of the University of Chile student federation, told local TV.

“I deeply regret what is happening today in the streets of Santiago, but the government is responsible for this because of its indolence and silence to all the proposals of the student movement,”

Axis of Logic applauds and congratulates these young people and all those who support them. Their insight, fortitude, organization and power is exemplary for students across the United States, Canada and Europe.