Students had occupied several of the public high schools in Santiago by the morning of Aug. 10 in the latest protest against the privatization of Chile's educational system that started under the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Chilean high school and university students launched a militant movement in the spring of 2011 to demand free, high-quality public education; current demands also include rejection of the so-called "Hinzpeter Law," legislation proposed by rightwing president Sebastián Piñera last year to impose severe penalties on people who occupy schools or public or private buildings, or who cause damage in protests. Student actions included some 40 marches in 2011 and five so far this year.
A group of 23 contract workers occupied the San Ambrosio Church in Vallenar, capital of the northern Chilean province of Huasco, on the morning of Aug. 4 to protest labor conditions at Pascua Lama, an open-pit gold, silver and copper mine being built in the Andes at the border between Argentina and Chile. Eight of the protesters took over the bell tower, where they shouted and banged on the metal structure to draw attention to their complaints against the mine's operator, the Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corporation.
Some 200 carabineros militarized police violently removed about 60 Mapuche on July 23 from land the indigenous people had occupied hours earlier near their homes in the Temucuicui community in the southern Chilean region of Araucanía. The carabineros threw tear gas grenades and fired pellets from shotguns to disperse the occupiers, including children and old people. A number of Mapuche were injured, and 12 were arrested--five men, four women and three girls. The women and girls were taken in a police bus to the nearby city of Collipulli; they reported being humiliated and sexually harassed by at least two police agents.