EspañolOn Thursday, April 16, thousands of Chilean students streamed onto the streets of Santiago to protest against recent corruption scandals plaguing Chile’s political class and delays in education reform.
Police reported that about 20,000 people participated in the march, including high school and university students and their teachers, while student organizers estimated that roughly 150,000 demonstrated in the capital.
Protesters displayed a banner with the words “More democracy and less corruption, let Chile decide its education” in front of the emblematic University of Chile in downtown Santiago.
The protest was largely peaceful, but violence broke out at the end when a group of demonstrators started throwing rocks and gasoline bombs at police.
“If the reforms are stuck in the Moneda [presidential palace], we’ll push them with social movements,” Gabriel Boric, an independent congressman and former student leader, wrote on Twitter.
Smaller protests took place in the cities of La Serena, Valparaíso, and Punta Arenas.
“The reforms have been affected by the [political] crisis we’re going through, that’s why it’s important to take to the streets”, said Chilean Students Confederation (Confech) President Valentina Saavedra.
La multitudinaria marcha de hoy prueba que Chile quiere una reforma educacional de verdad que no la definan ni empresarios ni corruptos
— Camila Vallejo Dowling #APRUEBO (@camila_vallejo) April 16, 2015
“The massive march today proves Chile wants real educational reform not defined by businessmen or the corrupt.”
President Michelle Bachelet has promised comprehensive educational reform during her 2013 reelection campaign, including moves to remove state funds for private high schools and make higher education completely free by 2016.
However, several elements of planned reforms have been delayed due to congressional gridlock and divisions within the governing New Majority coalition.
President Bachelet herself has been facing corruption allegations, after her son (a junior government minister) met with Banco de Chile officials shortly before his wife’s company secured a US$10 million bank loan, despite holding less than $10,000 in assets at the time.
Two campaign finance scandals involving the SQM mining firm and business group Penta have meanwhile dragged in both government and opposition politicians, as well as prominent members of Chile’s business elite.