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  • Students mobilize en masse in Chile.

    Students mobilize en masse in Chile. | Photo: EFE

Published 24 August 2017

Regional governments are being hit by a wave of industrial action.

Social organizations and trade unions in South America have been protesting in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Peru, mainly to demand more investment from their governments in education, but also against neoliberal policies.

Colombian Miners Face Repression, Abuse During Protests

In Argentina, the Union of Education Workers and the Association of Middle and Higher Education called a 24-hour strike to demand a higher increase in salaries in the capital city of Buenos Aires.

The unions reject the proposal of an increase of 21.5 percent by the local government and are presenting their demands to the government of President Mauricio Macri.

Crowds turn up in Bueno Aires to support the striking teachers.

"It is one of the lowest increases in the country and is happening in the richest district," Eduardo Lopez, general secretary of the UTE, told reporters.

Argentina's inflation was running at an annual rate of 21.6 percent in July. The teachers are demanding a wage increase of 35 percent, including 25 percent for this year and 10 percent for what they say they lost in 2016. 

The unions are also demanding that the disappeared activist, Santiago Maldonado, be returned alive. Maldonado went missing on Auguest 1, during a military police raid on an Indigenous Mapuche community in Cushamen.

A high school student is attacked by police in Chile. | Photo: EFE

In Chile, the National Coordinator of Secondary Students called marched in the capital Santiago to reject the country's new Public Education Act and demand the municipalities pay the debts they owe the workers.

"We will not allow a pact to rob from public education with this law of de-municipalization, which is going to remain in the hands of the next government and a commission of experts," Francisca Flores, spokeswoman of Cones, said.

Clashes broke out between security forces and the protesters over permits to stage the event. Water cannon was fired to disperse the crowds.

At least 45 people have been detained, including 28 minors, reported Coopertiva.

"Teachers arrive at the Congress after walking from the metropolitan region in the so-called 'march of decency'."

The day also saw the culmination of a teacher's "March of Decency".

Some walked for three days, arriving at the Congress in the city of Valparaiso.

Their demonstration was also organised against the new Public Education Act.

As for Colombia, the student community at the Industrial University of Santander organized a large mobilization to reject cutbacks that the government of President Juan Manuel Santos plans to carry out in 2018. Scientists dressed in white robes also joined the students.

Scientists march alongside students in Colombia.

The march to protest against cuts in science, technology, and innovation started at the main entrance of the university campus, located in the northeast city of Bucaramanga.

The budget cut stands at 41.5 percent and is due to be approved in the government's budget for 2018.

Peru's Education Minister to Start Firing Striking Teachers

Meanwhile, in Peru, the General Confederation of Workers (CGTP) and the Workers Union organized a march through Lima to the Congress, although Peruvian law prohibits any protests close to the legislative branch.

The country's teachers, who have been protesting against lack of funds for the past two months have been attacked and repressed by the government of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

"The aim of the mobilization is to express solidarity with the unions that have been carrying out protests and strikes, against the anti-popular measures that come from the PPK neoliberal government, which greatly affect the working class and the people," said the unions in a statement.

The CGTP is preparing to go on an indefinite national strike if its demands are not met, as the group has been voicing their demands for better salaries, and improved pensions for the past 70 days.

By late afternoon, the protesters with met with force by the riot police, who fired tear gas at them.

In Paraguay, the teacher's union confirmed a strike until Friday to demand wage increases, with a march to the headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Finance.

They are demanding "compliance with the law and the implementation of basic professional salary," accoding to Silvio Piris from the Teachers Federation of Paraguay.

The teachers rejected the proposal of the government of Horacio Cartes of a gradual increase of 8 percent for people who have been working in education for more than 20 years. Those who have less seniority will only get 5 percent.

The teachers want an increase of 32 percent.

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