The State of Chile

I went to Casa Central in the Center because the students have “taken-over” the building. I did not know what this meant until I saw the building. They’ve covered the sides of the school with banners and camped out inside. There were students sitting in front of the entry doors and people with megaphones shouting at anyone who would listen about their cause. They’re protesting for free education since this is an election year with high stakes.

Of the three (important) candidates running there’s a number of dramatic issues being challenged like education reform and abortion. Most controversial is the fact that Michelle Bachelet is running for presidency again. I saw her speak at Berkeley two years ago. There she was praised for the many liberal reforms she legislated while in office and her work with UN Women. But upon arriving in Chile I’ve heard multiple criticisms about how she handled the 2010 earthquake. Apparently her government failed to evacuate the costal region in time to save multiple lives from the effects of a massive tsunami.

Still there’s posters for all three candidates that cover entire buildings, entire blocks of buildings. I’ve never seen political advertising like this.

There’s an election next week, which means that protests have been amping up. My friend Peter from the hostel was walking home yesterday and got caught in a riot with fire bombs three blocks from the house. And today my friend Weiru and I got caught in the pepper spray/water cannoning while waiting for the bus. The city is in grid lock a lot because of protests, so you have to plan to be late for a lot of things.

It’s exciting, if not a bit scary. I’m taking precautions, so not to worry : )

The trip started off with a bang, so I figure Chile’s got to send me off with one too.

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