Chile stu­dents protest cor­rup­tion, de­mand ed­u­ca­tion re­form


Thou­sands of stu­dents marched through the streets of Chile’s cap­i­tal Thurs­day to protest re­cent cor­rup­tion scan­dals and to com­plain about de­lays in a promised ed­u­ca­tion over­haul.

Po­lice said about 20,000 peo­ple took part, while stu­dent or­ga­niz­ers es­ti­mated the crowd at about 150,000. The gath­er­ing was largely peace­ful, but vi­o­lence broke out at the end when small bands of hooded pro­test­ers threw rocks and gaso­line bombs at po­lice.

Au­thor­i­ties said seven po­lice of­fi­cers had mi­nor in­juries and 134 pro­test­ers were taken into cus­tody.

Past stu­dent marches fo­cused on pres­sur­ing Pres­i­dent Michelle Bachelet to ful­fill her cam­paign prom­ise of ed­u­ca­tion re­form. Stu­dents now say they are fed up wait­ing for changes and are dis­gusted by a se­ries of cor­rup­tion scan­dals in­volv­ing politi­cians and the busi­ness elite.

The scan­dals in­clude a con­tro­versy over a bank loan in­volv­ing Bachelet’s son and cam­paign fi­nanc­ing in­volv­ing right- wing politi­cians and a prom­i­nent fi­nan­cial com­pany. An­other taxre­lated elec­tion-fi­nanc­ing scan­dal at Chilean SQM min­ing com­pany forced the res­ig­na­tion of its chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“We need to protest against this caste of cor­rupt politi­cians and busi­ness­men who are in­volved and who are not rul­ing for a ma­jor­ity, and in­stead they’re cook- ing up the re­forms be­hind four walls,” said Aurora Isi­dora Rozas, a spokes­woman for the co­or­di­nat­ing as­sem­bly of high school stu­dents.

Stu­dents waved ban­ners de­mand­ing changes in an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem char­ac­ter­ized by poor public schools, ex­pen­sive pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties and un­pre­pared teach­ers.

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