Friday, March 16, 2012

Chile's Student Movement Resumes Protests

In the first protest of the year by Chile’s student movement, at least 2,000 protestors took to Santiago’s main avenue yesterday, marching towards the education ministry in order to deliver demands of reform to Minister of Education Harald Beyer. When protestors attempted to cross police lines and enter the ministry, riot police broke up the demonstration, firing tear gas and water cannons, and ultimately arresting around 50.  

Now that summer vacation has ended in the country, the student movement is expected to ratchet up its calls for education reform. The students are demanding that the federal government dramatically increase education spending and resume control over public schools, which are attended by 90 percent of the country’s 3.5 million students.

Control over education was handed over to the municipalities during the Pinochet dictatorship, which, along with the encouragement of private for-profit universities, was undertaken in an attempt to “streamline” the Chilean education system. However, this has resulted in a system in which students and their families are burdened by massive debt.

Although the government has repeatedly rebuffed their demands, the majority of Chileans side with the student movement.  Polls have placed public support for the student movement at about 80 percent, and support for President Sebatian Piñera has plummeted partially as a result of his hardline stance against student demonstrators. Last August, a survey conducted by Chilean polling firm CEP (Centro de Estudios Públicos) put support for Piñera at only 26 percent, making him the least-liked president in Chile’s history. Since then, his approval rating has climbed somewhat, and is now around 34 percent.

More from El Ciudadano and BBC


News Briefs

·         AP reports that Argentina is stepping up its efforts to prevent the UK from drilling oil off the shore of the Falklands, vowing to pursue legal action and enact "administrative, civil and criminal" penalties against the dozens of companies involved.  In response, the UK has called Argentina’s remarks “illegal intimidation,” and argued that the Falklands’ right to develop their oil sector is an “integral part” of the islands’ sovereignty.

·         Although the group of 13 Cuban dissidents who occupied a Catholic Church in Havana over the past two days vowed they would remain until the Pope vowed to address human rights concerns when in Cuba later this month, police evicted them late last night.

·         Notorious Jamaican drug kingpin Dudus Coke is set to be sentenced in a New York court on drug charges today, and Jamaicans are watching the case closely, the AP reports.

·         Venezuelan Defense Minister Henry Rangel Silva has announced that he intends to deploy 15,000 additional troops to the country’s borders with Colombia, Brazil and Guyana in an effort to crack down on drug trafficking and violence in the border regions.

·         Brazil’s O Globo highlights the police occupation of Rio’s troubled Alemao favela, which is now a year and a half old. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether any real security gains have been made in the neighborhood, and there has been no announced deadline for police to leave.

·         Peruvian officials are sending 1,000 police reinforcements to the embattled city of Puerto Maldonado, which has been rocked by demonstrations organized by illegal gold miners against heightened restrictions on mining in the area.

·         The BBC profiles indigenous Bolivian judge Gualberto Cusi, who has rejected calls for him to quit after he admitted to using tea leaves in a traditional divination ceremony to help him make decisions.

·         The L.A. Times’ World Now blog takes a look at the deteriorating security in Monterrey, Mexico, and the reasons why some stay while others prefer to leave.

·         The Wall Street Journal reports on the efforts of coffee growers in the region to diversify their product so as to minimize their losses when the volatile coffee market turns against them.

·         This week’s issue of the Economist highlights the growing support for drug decriminalization in Latin America, the potential for a Brazilian scholarship system to contribute to economic growth, and a recent spate of rebel attacks on Colombia’s oil industry.