SANTIAGO – Riot police on Wednesday arrested more than 50 striking teachers who tried to surround Chile’s presidential palace to demand payment of a promised bonus.
Among those arrested was teachers union chief Jaime Gajardo, who later was released and went back to the central Armas Square to continue the protest along with the other teachers, who marched in line around the site.
The protest came 18 days into a national strike by some 80,000 teachers which has left more than 700,000 students unable to attend class.
Chile’s municipalities, which administer the public schools, acknowledge that they owe teachers as much as $142 million in bonuses for 2007 and 2008 and propose to pay it in three installments, a possibility that the teachers so far have rejected.
The central government has already provided municipalities with funds to pay the bonuses.
Meanwhile, Education Minister Monica Jimenez met with the Education Committee in the lower house ot Congress to seek a way out of the conflict.
“I hope that today or tomorrow this will be resolved, once the comptroller determines what the calculation formula is, it should proceed with payment of the money,” said the minister.
In the metropolitan region of Santiago, where a third of Chile’s population lives, 83 percent of the 1,189 public school teachers are taking part in the strike. EFE