Snow Fails to Dampen Students’ Enthusiasm

18 Aug

Tens of thousands defy oppressive weather and government ban in Santiago and take to the streets.

CNN put the number of marchers at around 50, 000, organizers at 100,000, but there was no disputing some figures. Below 6°C, sleet, patches of snow, wind and rain.

Marchers chanted and danced to raise spirits and ward of the cold, giving the event a festive feel. As they danced, thousands of umbrellas pulsated in unison, leading to the protest being dubbed ‘the march of the umbrellas.’

Student organizers had stressed that they wanted the march to be a peaceful and they were largely successful. Sitio Quiltro saw no clashes between police and protestors.

Police Presence

However there was a heavy police presence and moments of high tension, and there were still people selling lemons, which are used to ward of the effects of teargas.

The march was only permitted until 2 p.m. After that the crowd began dispersing, but the streets were still full of chanting for hours afterwards.

At least 50 fully armed riot police stood at Metro O’Higgins, forcing the thousands of commuters entering and leaving to do so in single file.

Hundreds – possibly thousands – more riot police were in the streets, with upwards of 50 armoured trucks, water-cannons and vans. Mounted police patrolled the streets and a helicopter hovered above the scene.

In contrast to the march on August the 4th – when it seemed that anyone who raised a banner was teargas target practice for Caribineros –  the police were restrained, claiming that they only fired one tear gas canister and made 6 arrests. For this they congratulated the students.

Perhaps it was a victory for student organizers – who managed to control the protest and avoid violent clashes- or perhaps it was a result of the growing criticisms of heavy handed police tactics.

An alternative explanation for the absence of violence was put forward on Facebook this afternoon by Cristóbal Cordóva Duránon – “The encapuchados clearly demonstrated their convictions today: a little cold and they stay at home.”

The peaceful nature of the march stood in stark contrast to scenes that took place in the early hours of the morning. Radio Cooperativa reported that up to 20 encapuchados erected barricades and set tyres on fire in front of the University of Chile.

The President of the Association of Teachers, Jaime Gajardo, said that 240, 000 people marched across the whole country.

Santiago’s Homeless: “We Side with Piñera.”

18 Aug

Photo: Alex E. Proimos / Flickr

By Kurt Hoberg.

                  In a surprise declaration yesterday from the indigentes of the greater Santiago area, spokesman Mario “Hueso del Perro” Martinez Palmero announced his support for oft-criticized president Sebastián Piñera. In the four-minute address, Martinez praised the variety of improvements vagrants are experiencing as a result of student protests.

“At this difficult time of year,” he opened between violent coughing fits, “Food and warmth is the most important thing. With the crowds of wasteful teenagers walking the streets, we are there to rescue their leftovers from trashcans, dogs, and ditches.

“Additionally,” he continued after looking distractedly at a passerby eating a Golpe bar, “People already are opening their wallets for students, so we homeless also get some of the overflow.”

“I think he’s doing a great job. We are an ignored group, and he’s doing really great things for us. People should be nicer to President Pimento.”

Martinez switched to a sitting position and continued explaining that the amount of students performing acts of juggling, music, and theatrics had transformed the streets into the most entertaining atmosphere homeless had seen since the 2006. At that time, student protests also erupted onto the streets in huge numbers. It was at this time, Martinez claimed, he had learned to juggle while standing on his head in order to earn money at the intersection of Santa Maria and Loreto.

According to other indigentes, the police forces have provided both hygienic and recreational pleasures for the needy. While fire-hoses have turned Santiago’s streets into some of the cleanest in South America, the use of tear gas has also provided those lucky enough to be within sniffing distance a “burning head rush that lasts for at least 30 minutes if you snort it right.”

All of these positives come as a result of Piñera’s stubbornness to meet the demands of both Colegio and University students’ diverse demands focused on affordable education while Chile’s best young minds sit unchallenged. “Hueso del Perro” then cupped his hands and leapt into the small group of reporters shouting “Pesitos! Pesitos para Huesitos del Perritos!” thus marking the end of the address.

Even with the support of the homeless, Piñera would still fail to reach a 30% approval rating among registered voters in Chile. And, if the homeless did vote, Universidad de Chile professor Rodrigo Figueroa says most lack the ability to make an informed decision.

“Besides mental problems and addictions, they don’t have the education level. It’s very unfortunate. If you don’t have a home, how can you worry about something like political representation? How can research it? Even people with a home can’t afford education in Chile now. But to answer your question, no the majority of homeless are not able to make such political judgments.”

Shortly after his speech, Martinez was heard recounting to a group of pedestrians waiting for the micro how he once was a professor of French, and, after doing a series of halting, off-balance pirouettes from his makeshift podium- an upturned shopping cart covered by a blanket- said that “we should remember the French for their strength and dancing.”

Isabel Allende Endorses Chile’s Students

16 Aug

Chilean novelist Isabel Allende throws her support behind growing calls for education reform in her home country.

Photo: martu_mq / Flickr

Speaking in an interview published by La Tercera yesterday, Allende endorsed the movement for free and quality education and a ban on profiteering in schools, saying that it “is part of a neoliberal system that no longer works.”

She warned that the protests were “the tip of the iceberg, because the core issue is the inequality of opportunities.”

The author drew parallels between the movement of students in Chile, the “Indignants” in Spain and recent events in Britain, saying “young people are making a cultural revolution, “ because “there are no political leaders today.”

Student Campaign To End Use of Tear Gas

11 Aug

Students construct peace sign with 500 empty canisters that have been used against them by Caribineros.

 

Photo provided by Camila Vallejo Dowling / Facebook.

Today protestors gathered at the government palace, La Moneda, to draw attention to the tactics to break up student demonstrations.

Riot police – known as “ninja turtles” for their khaki uniforms and body armour – often use tear gas to disperse public gatherings. On Thursday the 4th of August, so much gas was used to break up demonstrators – the majority of them high school students – that it infiltrated the metro system. By the evening an acrid cloud had enveloped the city that was visible for miles, illuminated by the flare of ever more canisters being fired.

Protestors have also set up a Facebook site, called NO more Teargas in Chile.


World Moves For Chile’s Students

11 Aug

International solidarity for the students movement with marches on Chilean embassy’s and messages of support on social media.

People around the world have responded to Tuesdays massive protests by staging marches in support of the Chile’s student movement.

Uruguay’s El Pais reported that on Wednesday at least 2,000 students marched on the Chilean Embassy in Montevideo. The march ended in a street party and occurred without any incidents of violence or vandalism.

Similar marches took place in Germany, Spain, Argentina and the United States.

Video of demonstrators in Montevideo.

Video: Periodicoliberarce / Youtube.

World Media Coverage

The number of protestors at recent marches and the response of Caribineros have begun drawing the attention of the world’s media to this movement, now months old. The New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Guardian and The BBC, have all published articles on the issue.

Social Media Solidarity

International support has also come in the form of social media campaigns. “Make the world move for Chilean education,” a Facebook site that encourages people to send digital postcards of support from around the world has received over 200 photos so far.

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All photos provided by Haz que el mundo se mueva por la educacion chilena / Facebook.

Cacerolazos Add Latin Flavour to Student Protests

10 Aug

For the sixth consecutive night the streets of Santiago resonated with the sounds of a distinctly Latin American form of protest.

Photo: simenon / Flickr

Last night they where at it again. Thousands of people gathered in the plazas across the country. Groups of people roamed suburban streets. Some leaned from their balconies.

Armed with kitchen pots and spoons they beat a steady rhythm, accompanied by whistles, bongos and the horns of passing traffic.

The cacerolazos have been banging their kitchenware since last Thursday, answering a call by student leader Camila Vallejo to revive a form of protest that originated in Chile in 1970s.

Beginning as a street protest during the tumultuous period under marxist President Salvador Allende (1970-1973), cacerolazos were a common form of dissent under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), when people who openly protested ‘disappeared.’ During the dictatorship, peopled preform caserolazos from their houses, without being incriminated.

Video: uploaded by claudioluzmp.

Hooded ‘protestor’ exposed as police

10 Aug

Government and Caribineros embarrassed as an encapuchado (hooded protestor) is revealed as an ‘undercover’ police an officer.

Photo: cÁmARa AccióN / Flickr

 

Violent behavior of protestors is frequently used by government officials and police forces to justify repression of student protests.

Yesterday – during isolated scenes of violence that marred otherwise peaceful marches across the country – Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter told journalists that: “the results have demonstrated once again that unfortunately they (student leaders) do not have control of the marches and that obliges the Caribinero forces to protect the rights of other citizens.”

Rumours often circulate amongst protestors that pakos infiltrate student ranks to cause trouble and thereby legitimize a violent response. But lacking proof the claims are rarely deemed credible by mainstream news organizations.

Those claims were substantiated in the aftermath of the protests yesterday as the Caribiner0s were forced to admit that at least one encapuchando was a policeman in disguise.

The Caribinero was exposed when student demonstrators in Valparaíso guessed his identity and began hurling lemons – used to  ward of the effects of teargas – at the fleeing officer.

National Director of Public Order and Security, Aquiles Blu, has told local press that the officer was undercover to “obtain information.”

Tens of thousands march in Santiago

9 Aug

Between 60,000 to more than 150,000 (depending on where you get your news from) students marched through central Santiago today.

In other news, a small blog, named after the Chilean word for a ‘street dog’ is born to cover the movement.

Photo by Javiera Castro Faúndez.