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LatinNews Daily - 14 June 2016

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Student-gov’t tensions rise in Chile

Development: On 13 June Chile’s Carabineros police evicted student protesters from three Santiago schools, Internado Nacional Barros Arana (Inba), Liceo Javiera Carrera de Niñas, and Liceo de Aplicación, and they arrested 19 people following acts of vandalism which caused damage worth some Cl$400m (US$588,652).

Significance: Santiago Mayor Carolina Tohá said that the damage done to Inba, one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious schools, exceeded “everything imaginable” and the occupations are the latest show of unrest in recent weeks by the students frustrated with the failure by the Nueva Mayoría coalition government led by President Michelle Bachelet to make good on its pledge to provide universal free education. The occupations take place as the Bachelet executive, which is struggling to fulfil its campaign pledge in the face of the continued domestic economic slowdown, is preparing to submit a new education reform bill to the national congress.

  • The damage caused by the students has also exposed tensions between local authorities – yesterday the education director of the municipality of Santiago, Mónica Espina, resigned citing frustration with the Carabineros’ slow response, complaining that some 20 requests had been sent for police intervention before these intervened yesterday. Rodney Weber, the head of the Carabineros’ Santiago Oeste zone, rejected criticisms regarding the delayed response, insisting that he had only received a directive from the municipality last week and these actions “require preparations”.
  • The unrest comes three days after Education Minister Adriana Delpiano met representatives from Chile’s main students’ organisation, Confederación de Estudiantes de Chile (Confech), to discuss the new education bill. Confech expressed disappointment with the results of the meeting, accusing Delpiano of failing to provide specific details. Prior to the meeting, Delpiano had said that universal free education would depend on economic growth and that it would be up to the next government to see “where the resources will come from” – an argument rejected by Confech spokesperson, Gabriel Iturra, who told reporters that Chile is a “wealthy country…the problem lies in the distribution of the wealth”.
  • On 6 June Chile’s central bank (BCCH) released its latest quarterly monetary policy report (IPoM), in which it cuts its GDP growth projection for 2016 to 1.25%-2.0%, from a previous view of 1.25%-2.25%. BCCH left its forecast for 2017 economic growth unchanged at 2.0%-3.0%.

Looking Ahead: The unrest is set to continue. Yesterday the secondary students’ associations, Coordinadora Nacional Estudiantes Secundarios (Cones) and Asamblea Coordinadora de Estudiantes Secundarios (Aces), announced plans to stage protests tomorrow (15 June). Following Confech’s meeting with Delpiano, spokesperson Marta Matamala called on students to continue mobilising until the education ministry provides more information about the new proposed reform.