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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06SANTIAGO1204
2006-06-01 19:28:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Santiago
Cable title:  

STUDENT PROTESTS GATHER WIDE SUPPORT

Tags:   PGOV  SOCI  CI 
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VZCZCXYZ0007
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSG #1204 1521928
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 011928Z JUN 06
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9324
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 3178
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3054
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 0965
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUN 4632
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA PRIORITY 4577
						UNCLAS SANTIAGO 001204 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI CI
SUBJECT: STUDENT PROTESTS GATHER WIDE SUPPORT


UNCLAS SANTIAGO 001204

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI CI
SUBJECT: STUDENT PROTESTS GATHER WIDE SUPPORT



1. Summary. On May 30, almost eighty percent of Chile's one
million high school students participated in a nation-wide
strike. In several major cities including Santiago, protests
turned mildly violent. What began as a minor movement in
April has now gained widespread public support for major
educational reform. The Government of Chile has begun a
dialogue with the protesting students, but street protests
may continue. End Summary.


2. Nearly 800,000 Chilean secondary school students took to
the streets of major cities on May 30. Nearly one thousand
secondary schools had to suspend operations, as students
sought to press their demands against the GOC in public. The
students' major demands are 1) unlimited transportation; 2)
elimination of fees for the required nation-wide university
entrance exam; and most importantly, 3) improvement in the
quality of Chile's public education system.


3. The protests began as minor affairs in April in Santiago.
GOC officials dismissed the protests as they involved only a
small number of students and produced nothing more than
vandalism in downtown Santiago. In the last several weeks,
however, students have developed a cogent set of demands and
tapped into an apparently widespread vein of deep
dissatisfaction with Chile's public secondary schools.
Private school students have recently joining in the
protests, as have some university students, but more in
sympathy and excitement rather than to press their own
demands. In several major cities, protests on May 30 turned
violent, with 400 arrested and a dozen injured in Santiago
alone.


4. The students' demands now have the support of the National
Teachers Association, a number of members of Congress, and
increasingly of the general public itself. Most observers
agree with the students about the need for a basic reform of
the Chilean public education system. A sweeping law that set
up Chile's current public education system was passed in the
final days of the Pinochet-led government in March 1990.
Most feel the public education system is inadequate compared
to the country's private schools. Further exacerbating the
gap, regional authorities must fund the public schools,
reinforcing the reality and perception of substantial
inequalities in the quality of education.


5. The GOC began a dialogue only recently with students, as
protests spread throughout Chile, and key short-term demands
such as free transportation remain unresolved. Obviously, a
fundamental reform of the education system will not happen
overnight. However, the students have voiced a frustration
with Chile's current system that many apparently felt but had
not found the venue to express. Given the organization,
violence and growing support for the students' demands, the
GOC likely has little choice but to deepen its dialogue with
the students.


6. Comment. Chile is experiencing its first major, sustained
student demonstrations in nearly thirty years, and the scale
of the protests and the popular vein they have touched appear
to have taken the government by surprise. The government is
having difficulty developing an effective response as it
tries to balance social order involving its own children,
with the widespread acknowledgement that the kids are right
-- there is a need for fundamental reform. In the meantime,
the students appear increasingly well organized and
determined. It is unlikely they will desist without
significant demands being met.
KELLY