On May 8, 2013, a reported 80,000 students rallied in the streets of Santiago Chile to demand free and quality education. The “March for Education” organized by student organizations and unions, was the latest in two years of student marches over Chile’s education crisis, one of the most contentious issues in the country, and a key electoral issue for November’s Presidential election. Local media called it one of the largest marches in Santiago in more than two decades. Chile’s major cities drew to a standstill as huge numbers arrived to protests in the cities of Valparaiso, Concepcion, Temuco and Valdivia, as well as Santiago. The peaceful protests in Santiago were disrupted when a hooded group infiltrated and engaged with stationed riot police, throwing what was identified as petrol bombs at the armed barricades. Police responded with force, using water cannons and tear gas to break up demonstrators. A reported 109 people were arrested, including 24 minors. The number of injured have not yet been reported.
Before General Augusto Pinochet’s 1973-1990 dictatorship, Chile’s schools were free. Pinochet pushed privatization and ended central control and funding of primary and secondary schools. The quality of public education in poorer districts dropped, while billions of dollars in public funds were directed to privately-run high schools. Chilean families have bore the cost of this burden for years, and now student activists are fighting back. The massive scale of this protest movement is a huge step for Chile, a country that only recently won back it’s democracy. Under the tyrannical rule of Pinochet, thousands of Chileans suffered human rights violations. Now, 7 years after Pinochet’s death, Chile is still reeling from the emotional and social consequences. This movement brings much needed hope for a brighter future for all Chileans. All across the world, instant media sites like YouTube and Twitter make it possible for us to see news as it happens, and to partake in the creation of historic events, rather than just reading about them later. As the November election draws closer, it’s important that Chilean politicians know the world is watching, and that we will stand with Chile. Resources: Chile: Student protest for free education turns into heavy clash with the police (photos) Chilean Students Protest In The Street Demanding Free Education El campo de concentración de Pinochet cumple 70 años Video: