October 2011, Week 3


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Tue, 18 Oct 2011 20:52:04 -0400
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Education Protests Grip Chilean Capital 

Burning barricades block traffic as student demonstrations in
support of free higher education paralyse Santiago.

October 18, 2011


Students in Chile have erected burning barricades in at least
10 locations throughout Santiago, as part of a protest to
demand free higher education.
Tuesday's demonstration in the South American nation's
capital is the latest phase in a student movement that began
in May.
Television footage showed police using water cannons against
the protesters, and the office of President Sebastian Pinera
referred to them as "the violent ones, the vandals", who have
"undertaken a series of actions that are absolutely to be
Protesters threatened to continue demonstrating overnight -
thousands are expected to take to the plazas this evening -
and into the day on Wednesday.
In one incident in Santiago on Tuesday, masked assailants set
fire to a city bus at  7:30am.
Calling for massive protest marches in the business district
of Santiago, the students rejected further talks with the
government, who they said had not met their demands of free
public university education.
Currently, only 40 per cent of Chilean students qualify for
free education based on their parents' income.
The protests began as people used burning tyres, garbage, and
debris to block traffic outside the city's universities and
Massive gridlock
Alameda Avenue, an iconic area, faced massive gridlock after
protesters set fire to barricades near the University of
Chile and the University of Santiago.
The massive traffic jams in the city of six million were met
by tear gas and water cannons being fired by the police.
Outside the humanities faculty of the University of Chile, a
bus driver was injured when his vehicle was set alight by
protesters; all the passengers managed to escape unharmed.

The relaunched protest movement is the biggest the nation has
seen since previous negotations for sweeping educational
reform in 1990 with the then president, Augusto Pinochet,
broke down.

Calling for two days of protest, the Chilean Students
Confederation along with 70 other organisations, including
the nation's largest labour confederation and a teachers'
organisation, aim to coincide their calls for educational
reform with the larger youth-led Occupy Wall Street movement
that has spread globally.
The Pinera government has offered scholarships to the most
needy, but the president is "simply not willing to negotiate
what the students and trade unions are asking for", Al
Jazeera's Lucia Newman reported from Santiago.

The refusal comes at a time when the president's "popularity
is at an all-time low," she said.

The movement has already delayed classes throughout Santiago
for months, with demonstrations continuing to draw tens of
thousands of students into the streets.


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