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Chile’s Older Generation Protests Alongside Students

By Mariana Zepedaon June 28, 2012.

Student Protest June 28 2012 Santiago Chile. photo: Mark Teiwes

SANTIAGO — One year after the most recent wave of student protests in Chile began, a fight that was mainly student-led has expanded into a citizen’s movement.

Today, students took to the streets of Santiago to continue their fight for education reform, with the support of older generations, including teachers and workers. The presence of the CUT (Workers United Center of Chile), ANEF (National Group of Fiscal Employees) and the Colegio de Profesores (Teacher’s Association of Chile) brought diversity to the crowd that met at Plaza Italia at 11 a.m. to begin marching down the Alameda.

While students made up the bulk of the 150,000-person crowd that marched through Chile’s capital city today, the Colegio de Profesores, an organization of primary school and secondary school teachers, also maintained a strong presence at the demonstration.

Susana Palma, a teacher from the school Salvador Sanfuentes of Santiago and member of the Colegio de Profesores, remarked that  the teachers wholeheartedly support the students’ movement.

Still, the teachers have demands of their own. “The government launched a new project without consulting our representatives,” Palma said, detailing the ways in which this project will harm the professors by cutting their vacations short, holding them to yearly ranking and evaluations, and limiting their retirement plans.

Students are not the only sector of society that has reason to protest.

“This protest resonates throughout the country,” stated Cesar Uribe, a member of the ANEF. “This proves that our demands are legitimate; thousands of people are taking to the streets to ask the government to pay attention.”

The ANEF unites the workers of the public sector and has publicly declared its support for the student movement.

Although the movement began solely as a battle for free education, members of the ANEF consider that the students’ restlessness has spread, inspiring further mobilization and proving that qualms with education are symptomatic of a larger system that desperately needs reform.

“The student movement has brought to light topics that were hidden away, topics that nobody talked about. I think that everyone in Chile has demands that require constitutional reform,” Fabiola Veneces, another member of the ANEF, remarked.

Although the revolutionary fervor that the movement has inspired reaches across boundaries of age and class, protestors took to the streets today in support of this particular battle.

Uribe remembered his own days as a student, memories that heighten his commitment to supporting the demands of this generation of students.

“Although the past year has been important, this movement has been going on since 2000, when large-scale protests and takeovers first began occurring in Chile. That was my generation. And now, I am telling you, things have not changed at all. I had to get into a lot of debt to study and, currently, I remain buried in debt,” Uribe remarked.

However, education in Chile was not always such a burden. Rita and Monica, older women attending the demonstration to support what they consider a remarkable young generation of Chileans, made a brief comparison of the current education conditions with their personal experiences prior to the Pinochet dictatorship.

“Education used to be free and of good quality. But this is the education system that Pinochet left us with. We have been unable to change it because of the composition of Congress,” Monica said.

These two women maneuvered through the crowd of lively students and union representatives, carrying a red Salvador Allende flag and a banner reading “We still believe in Chile’s dreams.

Despite the lack of progress in advancing student demands, Rita and Monica consider that the student movement will mark Chile’s history. “The movement has opened the eyes of people who didn’t want to see what shape Chile was in,” said Rita.