Friday, August 26, 2011

Teenager Killed During Chile Strike

August 26, 2011 Voice of America

A Chilean teenager has died after being shot during massive protests
pressing for education reform.

Authorities said Friday that 16-year-old Manuel Gutierrez was shot during
a confrontation with police. Family members blamed police for firing the
shot that killed Gutierrez, a charge authorities denied.

Meanwhile, President Sebastian Pinera called for peace and proposed a
dialogue with students, teachers, and parents to negotiate an agreement.

The protests Wednesday and Thursday were part of a national strike, called
by Chile's main labor union, CUT. The goal was to support students who for
weeks have been protesting for education reform and an overhaul of
educational funding. Strike organizers have also called for tax reform and
constitutional change.

Union leaders estimate some 600,000 people across Chile participated in
the 48-hour strike, although government estimates are lower.

Nearly 1,400 people were arrested and more than 200 people injured during
the two days of at-times violent demonstrations, which saw stores looted,
fires set, and rocks rocks thrown. Authorities say as many as 300 buses
were damaged in the violence. Police responded to the demonstrations with
water cannon and tear gas.

The last time Chileans held a two-day national strike was during the rule
of General Augusto Pinochet, who held power from 1973 until 1990.

Chile leader wants talks; 1 dead, 1,400 arrests

By FEDERICO QUILODRAN - Associated Press Aug. 26, 2011

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — After three months of mass protests that provoked a
sharp drop in his popularity, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera agreed
Friday to negotiate with students and teachers demanding more state
funding for education and profound changes in government.

Pinera, who leads Chile's center-right political coalition, made the call
for dialogue as people recovered from a two-day nationwide strike called
by the country's largest union organization. As students, teachers and
pot-banging families around the country joined in, the strike turned into
a huge protest against his 18-month old government.

Most marchers were peaceful but scattered violence marred the protests,
and a 16-year-old boy was shot to death early Friday, allegedly by a
police bullet, as officers responded to looting and riots. Nearly 1,400
people were arrested nationwide, and more than 200 police and civilians
were injured.

"After more than three months in which we've seen violence and conflict
flourish, now is the time for peace, the time for unity, the time for
dialogue, the time for agreements," Pinera said.

He took care to invite representatives of all the sectors involved —
students, teachers, parents, professors and those who run the nation's
schools and universities — and say that education reform talks should take
place in the presidential palace as well as Congress.

That represents an about-face for Pinera, who had avoided talking directly
with protesting students or openly considering their demands before
sending his 21-point package of education proposals to Congress.

The students had their own list when they began taking over high schools
and universities three months ago, from more state funding to better
teacher training, and a guarantee of free quality education to all
Chileans. But their demands grew to include a new constitution to replace
the top-down political system dictated by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's regime,
and popular referendums to give Chileans a direct voice in their

Union organizers of the nationwide strike added their own list, including
major changes to pensions, health care and the labor code.

Camilo Ballesteros, student president at the University of Santiago,
praised Pinera's overture.

The student leader at the University of Concepcion, Guillermo Petersen,
credited the movement's pressure for changing the president's mind, but
said it remains to be seen how willing Pinera will be to make real

Students planned to decide this weekend how to respond. The presidents of
Chile's House and Senate, representing leftist and rightist parties, had
offered to sponsor negotiations, but Pinera and the students were both
leery of participating.

Neighbors blamed the death of Manuel Gutierrez on police gunfire. Deputy
Interior Minister Rodrigo Ubilla suggested the boy may have died while
confronting police, and said the case should be clarified quickly.

Union members estimated that 600,000 people participated in Thursday's
marches nationwide. Police offered no nationwide numbers, but estimated
far lower crowds in Santiago. What is clear is that some isolated student
boycotts have grown to become Chile's largest mass movement since
democracy was reestablished in 1991.

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