Chile: General Strike follows Campaign for Education

A banner on the demonstration reads: "Do you want to study in Chile? Play the lottery."

There has been a general strike in Chile following the long campaign by students and  teachers for free education

The students and teachers' demonstrations, strikes and other actions are aimed at ending the neo-liberal education policies which mean that the privileged few get an education which gives them a fast track to university and a place amongst the rich elite while the mass of people have to cope with underfunded schools and education made chaotic by policies like vouchers and privatisation.

Now there has been a general strike in support of these demands as well as  for improved health care, better rights for workers and an end to privatised social security. Student leader Camilla Vallejo told the BBC: “It’s time to change the political system, the economic system, so there is a fairer redistribution of power and of wealth.All this (market-oriented) development model has done is make a few grossly rich.” While the economy is booming - in part due to the profits from copper, the majority of people are feeling no benefit.

Thousands have marched through the streets in support of these demands - including construction workers, inhabitants of the areas beating pots and pans and transport workers but they have been met with violent repression from the security forces of multi-millionaire president Sebastian Pinera. One sixteen year old was shot in the chest by police and subsequently died - another 18 year old boy was shot in the eye and is in a serious condition. The security forces also raided squats during the two day general strike and some reports talk of over a thousand arrests since the strike began.

The strike is being supported by the International Trades UNion Confederation (ITUC). Its General Secretary, Sharon Burrow said: 

"I am honoured to accompany our brothers and sisters from the CUT in the magnificent fight being waged together with students, teachers and workers. This fight for free education, for health, social security, a new labour code and a new constitution is not only a fight for a better Chile but also for a better world. I bring greetings from 175 million workers around the world, who are looking on at this action with pride. The world’s attention is turned towards Chile and the Chilean government, which has no concern for the workers’ demands and has done nothing to tackle inequality.We are with Chile because we know that neoliberal policies exclude workers, they are not working and are doing us no good. The determination shown by the CUT and the workers in their fight for social justice is what will win the fight to make Chile a different place and allow us to live in a better world"

 For more infromation read: http://leftlaborreporter.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/in-chile-workers-students-join-general-strike-for-economic-democracy/, for a good first hand report and pictures go to: http://matadornetwork.com/change/two-day-general-strike-paralyzes-santiago-chile/ and also see previous posts on this site for some more background.

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