SANTIAGO – Tens of thousands of students marched in this capital and other Chilean cities on Tuesday to demand forgiveness of loans taken out to finance university education.
The demonstration in Santiago was organized by the Chile Students Confederation (Confech), which estimated the turnout here at roughly 80,000.
Nationwide, more than 250,000 people took part in the mobilization, according to Confech.
The annual cost of attending one of Chile’s universities can exceed $4,000, which is more than 25 percent of net disposable household income in the Andean nation, forcing many students to borrow to finance their schooling.
The protesters in Santiago gathered in the Plaza Italia and marched peacefully down the capital’s main thoroughfare, the Alameda, carrying placards calling for end to the “commercialization of education.”
Small groups clashed with police at the end of the protest.
The president of the University of Chile Student Federation, Patricio Medina, urged Education Minister Adriana Delpiano to keep “an open mind,” adding that what the students are demanding “is not impossible.”
Student leaders are preparing a “serious and realistic” proposal to move away from a system that leaves students struggling for years to repay college debt, Medina said.