If billionaire President Sebastián Piñera’s approval rating, which was a blazing 63% post the Chilean miners rescue operation has plummeted to a scary 26% and is poised to slide down further, blame this young student leader who has been instrumental in galvanizing Young Chile into a responsive, reactive entity that is shaking Chile’s foundations. To Camila Vallejo, studying geography at the University of Chile, and a member of the Young Communist League of Chile (J.J.C.C) , she seems to have just reacted in her own terms against the ‘racketeering and profiteering’ against education, and to her surprise found the entire student community of Chile rallying behind her with unconditional support.
The 23-year old, has since August, inspired scores of students to boycott classes since June, and joined by workers, was the face of the countrywide protest that began on August 24, 2011 and ran for 48-hours, a pot-banging strike or “Cacerolazo,” protesting the limp education, social, and economic systems of the country. Chile’s political mandarins witnessed for the first time, on a scale that was promising to be much bigger than the ones witnessed during the ousting of Pinochet in 1990, and literally shook Chile’s foundations. The demands that Camila has set out for the government to address, which would effectively sort out and solve the huge disparity that exists in the country’s education system has the ruling elite literally quaking, as it would mean a rewriting of the country’s constitution. The ruling offices retaliated on what was a peaceful demonstration with tear gas and water-cannons and the arrest of over 800 people. The international press, who picked up the story made them facing what was the one of the worst PR disasters in Chilean history.
Defiant and not backing down, the student community under the leadership of their second woman leader in the past 105 years has the potential to seriously affect and alter the course of the ‘neoliberal posterchild’s’ history of South America.Camila Vallejo joined the University of Chile’s geography Studies in 2006, and started getting involved with the leftist ideals in the vibrant student community, joining the Chilean Communist Youth in 2007. In November 2010 she was chosen as the president of the FECh. Post the August uprising, her charisma and powerful oratory has raised the heckles of most of the ruling elite, with a government official even tweeting about the only way to quell the uprising would be to assassinate her. She was promptly sacked.
According to her, “We do not want to improve the actual system; we want a profound change – to stop seeing education as a consumer good, to see education as a right where the state provides a guarantee. Why do we need education? To make profits. To make a business? Or to develop the country and have social integration and development? Those are the issues in dispute.”
And if that continuing dispute results in a mass uprising across the country, which the press seem to have already started calling the Chilean Winter, Camila Vallejo would be the face and the choice for a new leadership coalition to lead the nation on a new economic path that promises, above all, equality and justice.
[ Pic Credit : Roberto Candia/AP ]