SANTIAGO, Chile — Chile’s union and student leaders called Friday for shutting down the nation’s economy for a day in response to a police crackdown on education reform demonstrations that resulted in more than 250 arrests and left 30 people injured.
Arturo Martinez, who runs the CUT labor coalition, set the nationwide strike for Oct. 19. By his side was student leader Camila Vallejo, who accused the government of letting police attack peaceful marchers Thursday in violation of Chile’s constitution.
The government refused to authorize Thursday’s march, which was called by students after talks on demands for free, better-funded and higher-quality state-run education through the university level broke down Wednesday night.
Police turned out in large numbers even before their march began, using water cannons, tear gas and officers on horseback to keep about 10,000 students from gathering. Officers chased rock-throwing protesters onto university campuses and fired tear gas into the student government headquarters, Vallejo said.
Chadwick defended the police response, which included arrests of at least five journalists as they covered the disturbances, prompting a strong protest from Chile’s journalists’ union and news organizations.
“If the police overreacted, we’re going to control that, but we are going to respect the police, we are going to support the police, because it’s the only way we can apply the law, work within the law and respect the law,” Chadwick said.
The prolonged conflict seems to have hit a dead end. Education Minister Felipe Bulnes and President Sebastian Pinera are rejected the key student demands of changing Chile’s largely privatized system, which puts most of the burden of funding education on individual families, with one that gives the state a central role in ensuring free, high-quality education. The activists want to finance it by raising taxes on the rich and businesses.
Bulnes said Friday that the government is not preparing any new proposals to try to get students back to the negotiating table, beyond the 21-point plan Pinera already sent to Congress, which reforms the existing private-focused system but ignores several of the movement’s key demands.
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