By Christine Slocum ... via TheNextGreatGeneration.com
TIME magazine declared “The Protester” as Person of the Year 2011. Images from the Arab Spring and the tents of Occupy easily come to mind. But, Chilean student protests have virtually gone uncovered by the media in the United States.
Chilean students have risen up against an educational system that perpetuates inequalities between wealthy students and poorer ones. The problems, according to the protesters, are neoliberal policies that started with Pinochet and have continued to this day.
The Chilean state sparsely funds higher education, with the result being wealthy students can afford to go to for-profit schools of better quality than other students, dumped into lower-quality state universities. The protests, which have roots in the so-called Penguin Revolution of 2006, have focused on making universities equitable and accessible to all Chileans, regardless of means.
The younger generation is protesting in a social context which is less repressive than previous generations’ were. “For many years our parents’ generation was afraid to demonstrate, to complain, thinking it was better to conform to what was going on. Students are setting an example without the fear our parents had,” Camilla Vallejo Dowling told the New York Times.
Vallejo was voted “Person of the Year” by the United Kingdom’s The Guardian readers. She has over 367,00o followers to her Twitter account and is the current vice president of theConfederation of Chilean Student Federations (FECH). This organization has been in negotiations to advocate its proposals:
Vallejo is reported to be charismatic but also well connected to leftist organizations (such as the junior communists) and comes from an allegedly communist family that was active in the resistance against Pinochet. Vallejo lost the re-election bid for the FECH’s presidency to a candidate much more radical than she is, suggesting that perhaps broader changes are sought.