May 30th, 2015 (Photo Gallery Below)
Chilean police fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse stone-throwing students protesting May 28 against what they call inadequate education reforms and heavy-handed crackdowns on recent demonstrations.
Thousands of students took to the streets of Santiago, Valparaiso, and Concepcion to condemn President Michelle Bachelet’s reforms, claiming they fall short of overhauling an unequal education system inherited from the 1973-1990 military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
The protest began in the early morning hours as students dragged piles of rubbish into the streets and set them on fire, blocking traffic.
Demonstrators then massed outside the education ministry and state television network.
After being dispersed by police, thousands of protesters again took to the streets May 28 night. Hooded protesters gathered around a government building where they erected barricades and attempted to loot shops, police said.
Police reported four officers were hurt in the demonstrations.
“We’re still a very long way from achieving our dreams. The reforms are very inadequate,” student leader Claudia Arevalo told AFP.
The students, who have been protesting against the education system since 2011, also accused police of using excessive force to break up recent demonstrations.
An art student from Catholic University is currently in critical condition after being knocked to the ground and badly injured by a police water cannon during a protest that brought out six thousand students in the port city of Valparaiso last week.
The critically injured student was identified as Rodrigo Aviles Bravo, 28, who received the strong impact from a Special Police Forces water-cannon truck on Pedro Montt Avenue. Witnesses said the student at the Catholic University of Santiago, was hit in the chest at close range, where he lost his balance and hit his head on the pavement. The student was taken to the Carlos Van Buren Hospital in the port city, where he has been monitored in the ICU for head trauma in critical condition. In the same way, 19 year old student of AIEP Valparaiso, Paulina Estay, was taken to the hospital after being hit by Special Forces on the sidewalk of Parque Italia.
These incidents occurred around the seat of the Legislature, in the center of Valparaiso, where a group the Carabineros (militarized police) had set up barricades to block the advance of the protest. People tried to remove the barriers and police began with baton charges, water cannons and tear-gas to disperse the protesters who responded by throwing stones and objects at the police Special Forces.
Protesters with banners also recalled the death of students Exequiel Borvarán and Diego Guzman, who were shot two weeks ago by a suspect after participating in a march in Valparaiso.
Bachelet won a second term in 2013 with promises to launch an ambitious reform of the education system.
In January, she signed the first reform bill, opening university education to all students and banning for-profit activities at state-funded schools.
Last week, she announced a bill to provide free university education to 60 percent of the poorest students starting next year, reaching 70 percent in 2018 and 100 percent in 2020.
But her reform push has slowed amid a series of damaging corruption scandals, including one involving her son, that have dented her popularity — currently at 29 percent, her lowest rating ever.
With sources from Radio Cooperativa, Revolution News, and Hurriyet Daily News
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