by Denis Culum, The Argentine Independent, 14 June 2013.
Yesterday a march of Chilean students protesting against the latest education policies of President Sebastián Piñera turned violent when riot police intervened. Official reports stated, 324 students were arrested and at least 74 injured, including 24 policemen and 50 youths.
Before the conflict occurred, students marched peacefully through the main streets of the Chilean capital to demand free public education in protest against Piñera’s intention to fully privatise the university sector.
According to official reports, there were 214 arrests and 17 police officers injured in Santiago, while the other arrests occurred in various cities across the country. Local media has reported of violent police repression during student protests throughout the country.
Later in the day the most serious incident broke out, close to Santiago’s Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho, when a group of masked men split from the main body of marching students and started throwing stones and petrol bombs at the police.
The riots continued at the headquarters of the University of Chile where dozens of policemen entered the building using force and arrested several students.
Rector of the university, Víctor Pérez, stated that forceful police entry “broke a tradition of more than one hundred years of respect for the University of Chile.” He also described the intervention as “unacceptable” and furthermore lambasted the policemen’s “brutal invasion to the offices of university’s headquarters, all the while hitting and beating the students.”
The behaviour of the uniformed forces was also condemned by Andrés Fielbaum, President of the Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech), saying the police were “hitting everything that moved.”
In the early hours of the night, human rights organisations reported that “at least 50 students suffered various injuries” during the massive march.
Around 9pm hundreds of students, parents, and teachers gathered in the university’s grounds to bang their pots and pans in protest against the police repression.
Chilean students are still demanding a public, free, and quality education model which would replace the current one, introduced in 1981 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.