Chile: The crude strategy of Piñera’s government to discredit the students

New laws to repress social protest

President Sebastián Piñera and the Chilean minister of education Felipe Bulnes together with the employers, who control the media, have intensified their campaign to discredit the student demonstrations. Students have been demonstrating in Chile now for five months, demanding free education for all. The Government and their big business allies are now trying to paint the student demonstrators as extremely violent.

This is a government that does not learn from their own experiences. They have used the media in other crude campaigns, for instance when they used the rescue of the 33 miners late last year to boost their approval ratings in the polls. In September they tried to use a plane crash in the Juan Fernández islands which killed several famous Chileans to overshadow the student movement in the press. In the case of the miners their approval ratings rose like foam in polls but fell away again in the same manner. In the second case, while the government managed to gain a few points in the polls, they didn’t achieve their main objective of silencing the struggle of the students in the media and wearing them down. The student movement and their demand for free education for all still retain support amongst 80% of the population. The current ‘campaign against violence’ will end up the same way. Important sections of the of the population have already realised what the governments strategy is this time.

The Presidential Palace promotes violent acts

The order which came from ‘La Moneda’ (the Presidential Palace) was that the students must be associated with acts of violence and masked and hooded demonstrators. It is no coincidence that in all the television news related to the students the accompanying footage is of barricades and street fights which are shown over and over again. They are trying to give the impression that these things are happening continually when in fact the footage is at least 2 or 3 days old, if not older. It is no coincidence that today radio news is more credible than the television channels. An important sector considers television news to be staged and have little credibility. What is clear is that the television stations like blatantly, or at least misrepresent events.

The orders that the riot police have are to repress people who are demonstrate peacefully and to leave those who are breaking traffic lights, or even burning buses alone. On the day that these events occurred the images of the burning bus were used ad nauseum by the television channels to try and confuse the viewers with this event.

The arrogant attitude adopted by Education Minister Felipe Bulnes is part of this same strategy. He has pursued a strategy of simply provoking the students to try and cause them to react violently. This is accompanied by his totally cynical calls for ‘dialogue’ with the government.

Violence comes from the education tycoons aswell

Massive mobilisations of students and the fact that 80% of the population support these means nothing to this government of big business which ultimately does not take into account the majority opinion of the country. What could be more violent than this? This is a dictatorial minority imposing its pro-big-business policy which defends profiting from, and the outright theft of, education by tycoons and banks.

Today, like every other year, we are seeing private universities raise millions of dollars for deceptive advertising campaigns to attract their future ‘customers’. They are using this money to promise marvellous futures to their prospective ‘customers’ which in the end are far from reality and only serve to keep profits flowing to the education-merchants.

New laws to repress social protest

The final object of the government is to pass new laws using the excuse of the smalle number of hooded, violent protesters. In reality they are aiming to criminalize social struggle, jail the students who occupy their high schools or universities. The law will also criminalize workers struggles and especially target health workers. The health system is in crisis and we will inevitably see a big struggle of health workers and users emerge in the next period.

The Piñera government, the faithful and true heirs to the dictatorship, although not necessarily intent on returning to a full military dictatorship themselves, think that in order to impose their ideas it is enough to increase repression. This is something that the dictator Pinochet couldn’t even achieve. Despite the torture and murder of thousands of Chilean workers and youth the people mobilized themselves to end the dictatorship of the same capitalists who today support Piñera.

Students are showing the way to end injustice

The merit of the struggle of the students is that they are showing the way forward to end this system injustice imposed by the dictatorship of big business. We are now seeing the beginning of a new era of struggle that could bring an end to decline in living standards for workers which was imposed over the last 40 years by the most brutal capitalism of recent history.

In the next period the line must be taken by workers that they have to play a central role in the struggle against the inequality produced by the greed of the capitalists and in raising their own alternative kind of society.

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October 2011