top of page

Student Movements



Unrelenting.That is the word that floats in my mind as I think about the student movements of Chile and Venezuela. In researching the Constitutions of these two countries and trying to highlight the knowledge derived from what I have learned, the potency of the student movements in the processes of creating these constitutions could not be ignored. Across generations and locations, students have been at the forefront of the fight for democracy in their respective countries.


I am in a position now where I am the voice of many students. I sit as a board member of the undergraduate student association for the University of California and the stories and strength of the students in these countries have resonated deeply with the work that I could only hope to do.


The Chilean student movement is without a doubt the most famous example of the power of student movements. In recent history from 1973 to where we currently stand in 2022, student movements have been there every step of the way for the reforming of every constitution in between. After the coup of the Pinochet regime, students took to the streets to protest the far-right government that would put their education at the hands of neoliberal reformers. Since then that has been their constant struggle: the fight against neoliberalism in education. I wish to highlight in particular the more recent movements of Chile, those particularly that took place in 2011 and moreover in recent history in 2019. The current President of Chile, Gabriel Boric was a powerful student organizer in 2011 where he took to the streets in order to demand quality education, an education that aligns with the true definition of a public education. These students organized a massive National protest that involved thousands of students rallying for free education. Camilla Vallejo and Girogion Jackson were two of the most charismatic student leaders that helped push the agenda of this policy.


The Chilean Proposed Constitution would have enhanced the role of the public institution in higher education and created a pathway for further legislation to enshrine free tuition for higher education in Chile. The Constitution established the National Education System to encompass the pre-school, elementary, middle, and higher education systems and the state being responsible for this institution. The Constitution then establishes that it is the role of the government to “manage and finance a Public Education System of a secular and free nature.” While vague, the proposed constitution promotes the State as holding responsibility to free higher education. This clause holds particular meaning especially after the protests of January 2020, after hundreds of thousands of students protested the taking of the college entrance exam. This highlighted how higher education remains an institution that is only truly accessible to those who are upper and middle class who have means to provide their children with the extra lessons needed to do well on this exam. They blocked off the locations of these exams and inline with protests over the raise of subway prices, organized in these spaces.




In Venezuela, students had long been at the center of the fight for radical left-wing politics; they played a major role in the events leading up to the election of Hugo Chávez. In February of 1989, Venezuela underwent one of the largest protests of its history. The “Caracazo” began as a result of the almost 100 percent increase in petrol prices all over the country. Students attempting to board the transportation system near the capital, resisted the exorbitant fares and led many passengers in protesting this increase. Similar movements were reported all across the country that day. At the Instituto Universitario Politécnico Luis Caballero Mejía, students blocked off the terminal and later would occupy roadways, effectively shutting down the city. Throughout the 1990s, students played a pivotal role in the protests that took place during that time. Many of these protests began at educational institutions, students often associated with the disturbances caused by the encapuchados. Many times during these periods of unrest, especially during the Caracazo, students' education was stopped for long periods of time. Article 103 acts as a response to this, stating, “Every person has the right to a full, high-quality, ongoing education under conditions and circumstances of equality, subject only to such limitations as derive from such persons own aptitudes, vocation and aspirations.”




Moreover, these two particular examples play well into the struggles felt by students at the University of California and especially in the work that I do. The fight to hold this institution to the standard that they hold for students, we want our institutions to reflect that standard. From fighting to doubling the peel grant to the $48 fix, students at the UC have made it clear that higher education should be free and that it should have access to every student. Thinking of Berkeley specially, the call to Free Speech has been our founding ground. We are the birthplace and even now, we struggle constantly to uphold that for every student and understand what it means in the messy complicated twists of the political sphere we live in.



 

Sources:


Andreani, Fabrice, and Damian Alifa. “Chavismo, Student Movements, and the Future of the Left.” NACLA, The North American Congress on Latin America, 11 Mar. 2022, https://nacla.org/chavismo-student-movements.


Bartlett, John. “Students Surge Back to Chile's Streets as Schools Remain Hotbed of Protest.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 1 Nov. 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/nov/01/chile-school-students-protests.

Council on Foreign Relations. (2022). Venezuela's Chavez Era. Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved December 10, 2022, from https://www.cfr.org/timeline/venezuelas-chavez-era.

Larrabure, Manuel, and Carlos Torchia. “The 2011 Chilean Student Movement and the Struggle for a New Left.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 42, no. 5, 2014, pp. 248–268., https://doi.org/10.1177/0094582x14547506.


López‐Maya, Margarita. “Venezuela after the Caracazo: Forms of Protest in a Deinstitutionalized Context.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 21, no. 2 (2002): 199–218. https://doi.org/10.1111/1470-9856.00040.


López‐Maya, Margarita. “The Venezuelan Caracazo of 1989: Popular Protest and Institutional Weakness.” Journal of Latin American Studies 35, no. 1 (2003): 117–37. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0022216x02006673.


Nugent, C. (2020, January 23). Why students in Chile are protesting College Admission Tests. Time. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://time.com/5770308/chile-student-protests/


Williams , T. (2022, July 7). Chileans will vote on Free Tuition. Chileans will vote on free tuition. Retrieved December 2, 2022, from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/07/07/chileans-will-vote-free-tuition


Comments


bottom of page