Chile's September 11
Chile's September 11How has the legacy of the 1973 military coup affected the lives of Chileans?
September 11 marks the anniversary of the 1973 military coup that replaced Chile’s democratically-elected socialist government led by President Salvador Allende with the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. During the violent takeover, Pinochet’s military heavily bombed the capital city of Santiago and installed a junta that controlled Chile until 1990.
Following Pinochet’s takeover, more than 200,000 Chileans left the country, many for Europe. Thousands of loyalists to the Allende government were tortured and murdered for their political alignment.
Pinochet’s neoliberal legacy remained even after he was removed from power in 1990.
The military government privatised nearly all industries that were made public under Allende except the burgeoning copper mines; 10 percent of those profits went directly to the armed forces. The dictator eliminated tariff barriers and banned trade unions.
Pinochet feared that public universities were fostering political dissidents and responded by increasing the number of private universities.
From 1990 to 2010, the center-left coalition Concertacion Para la Democracia continued to promote Pinochet’s policies.
Today, Chilean students are working to reverse Pinochet’s lingering education reforms. Students wishing to attend college must choose between expensive universities and public schools with limited funding. Private universities can cost more than $9,000 per year. When adjusted for the average income of $15,000, Chile is one of the most expensive places to attend college in the world.
Student groups claim state schools are underfunded and fail to provide the same quality as private schools. Typically these private schools are only accessible to the country’s wealthiest students, and those willing to accrue massive debt to attend.
Since May, Chilean students protesting their country’s education policy have occupied more than 700 schools with sit-ins, street protests, and massive choreographed street dances.
Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera signed the Education Quality Assurance Law that formed an agency to oversee education quality, created more scholarships for lower income students, and lowered interest rates on loans. However, students promise to keep protesting until the president agrees to overhaul the system and make education affordable to all students.
Joining us to discuss these topics is Roberto Navarrete, editor of Alborada.net, a website covering politics, media and culture in Latin America. Navarrete left Chile as a political refugee 1975.
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