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Students, many wearing signs displaying the debt they are incurring to pursue higher education, dance to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’
Demonstrations earlier this year against HidroAysén piqued youth discontent about the Chilean government’s trending towards increased privatization. As winter approached in May and June, this discontent exploded into massive sit-ins and creative protests against profiteering in Chilean secondary and post-secondary education. Especially egregious were then Education Minister Joaquín Lavín’s attempts to funnel more government funds to his private universities. In three months of continuing demonstrations, charismatic young leaders have put forward a cogent critique of neoliberalism and the widening income gap in the country, and this critique has resonated widely with educators, healthcare workers, and labor unions. Students have been marching with many of these allies, and I found their creative messaging to be quite impressive. In late August, a national labor federation called a general strike, and 600,000 people are estimated to have participated in demonstrations during the two day strike. Even though national media has been working to turn public opinion against the demonstrators by focusing on the actions of a small contingent of violent troublemakers, President Piñera has felt widespread public pressure. He has made some significant concessions, but more seem inevitable as the popular movement continues to grow and he is forced to negotiate further with students.
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