SANTIAGO – Chilean police on Thursday dispersed a group of high-school students who had gathered in downtown Santiago to protest a proposed education overhaul promoted by President Michelle Bachelet’s administration.
“We have a reform by incompetent politicians, corrupt politicians who have done nothing more than line their pockets and their wallets ... the reforms don’t change the economic structure or the market-driven logic within education,” said Diego Arraño, spokesman for the Coordinating Assembly of Secondary Students, which organized the demonstration.
The youths gathered Thursday in Plaza Italia, a square in downtown Santiago, without requesting the authorization of the municipal government.
Some students were arrested during the demonstration.
Tuition-free university education was one of the main rallying cries of the students, who have taken to the streets since 2011 to press their demands.
Bachelet pledged during her successful election campaign in 2013 that she would make college free and said the initial phase would aid 70 percent of the poorest students.
But a sluggish economy led the government to retreat from that target and the implementation of the plan has been rocky.
Students have held constant demonstrations and occupied schools in recent months to pressure the national government.
The young activists say Bachelet’s plan doesn’t do enough to reform an educational system still marked by the legacy of the 1973-1990 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship, which encouraged the proliferation of for-profit schools and starved public education of resources.