student protests

Chile: student movement regains momentum

Chilean students held marches in Santiago and about a dozen other cities on April 11 to step up their two-year campaign for free, high-quality education to replace the heavily privatized system that started during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. While the first march of the new school year, on March 28, drew about 20,000 people, some 150,000 participated in Santiago alone on April 11, according to organizers; the authorities put the number at 80,000. Local media said this was one of the largest marches in the capital in two decades. As usual, small groups confronted the police—109 arrests were reported—but in general the march was described as peaceful and even festive.

Chile: students resume marches for education reform

An estimated 20,000 Chilean secondary and university students marched through downtown Santiago on March 28 to call for free, high-quality education. This was the first major student demonstration of the new school year, continuing a series of demonstrations that started in 2011 to protest the privatization of secondary and higher education that started during the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. At their high point in 2011 the marches brought hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and supporters to the streets and dramatically lowered the approval rating of rightwing president Sebastián Piñera; these were the largest demonstrations in Chile since the end of military rule.

Guatemala: students march against 'reform'

Joined by activists from other social movements, hundreds of students from Guatemalan teachers' colleges marched nearly 50 kilometers to Guatemala City from El Tejar in the central department of Chimaltenango starting on March 10 to protest what they called the "arbitrary and anti-democratic form" of an educational "reform" passed last year. Students from local private schools began joining the marchers as they arrived in the capital around 6 AM on March 12. The protesters headed to the National Congress and surrounded it, demanding a dialogue with Education Minister Cynthia del Aguila. The minister initially refused to meet with the students, but at the end of the day Del Aguila held a press conference with Dialogue Commissioner Miguel Barcárcel and student representatives to announce plans for a discussion—although Del Aguila said this didn't necessarily mean the government was backing down from the reform.

Mexico: evidence mounts of police repression on Dec. 1 inaugural

On Dec. 9 Mexican authorities released 56 of the 69 people who had been in detention for more than a week on suspicion of "attacking public peace" during protests in Mexico City against the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A total of 106 were reportedly arrested on a day that included violent confrontations between police and protesters and widespread property destruction, but 28 were quickly released. Judge María del Carmen Mora Brito of the Federal District (DF) court system ordered the Dec. 9 releases after "analyzing videos, testimonies and expert witnesses' reports," the DF Superior Court of Justice (TSJDF) announced in a communiqué. (Europa Press, Dec. 10)

Protests rock Sudan, South Sudan...

Six people were injured Dec. 9 as Sudanese police used tear-gas against hundreds of student protesters near the University of Khartoum. The protesters—who chanted the iconic Arab Spring slogan "The people want to overthrow the regime"—were marching to demand justice in the case of four students from the Darfur region who were found drowned in a canal near the campus of Gezira University, south of the capital, on Dec. 7, after they had participated in protests against tuition hikes. The Khartoum protesters marched through the city center, chanting "Killing a student is killing a nation."

Mexico: Peña Nieto takes office as youths riot

Protests against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto during his inauguration on Dec. 1 quickly turned into violent confrontations between police and demonstrators that disrupted much of downtown Mexico City. The protests were called by the National Convention Against the Imposition, a coalition of groups holding that Peña Nieto's election last July was manipulated, and #YoSoy132 ("I'm number 132"), a student movement that arose in the spring in response to the election campaign. But masked youths, many of them wearing black t-shirts with anarchist symbols, quickly became the center of attention at the Dec. 1 demonstration.

Pressure on Rwanda over role in Congo war

Thousands of students protested in the Democratic Republic of Congo cities Kisangani, Bunia and Kinshasa on Nov. 20 after M23 rebels seized the eastern city of Goma. They were mostly expressing their rage at the M23 rebels, but also targeted the government and the UN mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO). Despite government and UN assurances, M23 rebels took Goma with little resistance from either Congolese or UN forces. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it was "absurd" that UN troops could not stop the rebels from entering Goma. With a 20,000-strong military and civilian staff, MONUSCO has a yearly budget of close to $1.5 billion, the second-largest peacekeeping mission in the world (after Sudan).

Haiti: students protest killing by police agent

Damaël D'Haïti, an economics student at the State University of Haiti (UEH), was shot dead the evening of Nov. 10 during an event at the university's Faculty of Law and Economics (FDSE) facility in Port-au-Prince. According to witnesses, the killer was an agent of the Haitian National Police (PNH), Macéus Pierre-Paul (or Pierre-Paul Macéus); the motive was unclear. Pierre-Paul was detained, and Port-au-Prince Government Commissioner Lucmane Délile, chief prosecutor for the capital, insisted that justice would be carried out in this case.

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