This paper analyzes the relationship between the Chilean student movement and state force action during the period 2000–2012, placing specific attention on three waves of student contention that took place at the turn of the century. During the decade under study, the Chilean students became more contentious, they broadened their demands beyond specific grievances to encompass a critique to the education system as a whole, their alliance system grew (gaining from these denser networks of collaboration more resources to mobilize), and they managed to win public opinion on their side. However, the relationship with state forces has not been static across time, and both students and state forces have experienced changes in how they interact with each other. The results of this paper are based on a mixed method approach that drew on a quantitative database of student contention in Chile (n = 491 student events) and 15 in-depth interviews with leader activists from the most salient recent Chilean student movements of three periods under study, in addition to some key informants. The findings confirm that when student protests target the government, when they use disruptive strategies that affect the status-quo, and when they mobilize alongside other challenging actors, they are more likely to be met with direct repression by authorities. The research shows that there is a “dialect of repression” at play by which state forces' direct repression of protest can be two-fold: on the one hand, it gives students visibility in the public opinion, but on the other, it can be negative for ushering support if the media and authorities are successful in portraying them as violent or a threat to public order. In this sense, the figure of the “encapuchado,” students who disguise their identity and purposefully seek confrontation with authorities during mobilizations is problematized by the movement itself. How to win public opinion and use that visibility in their favor is related to decision-making mechanisms that the movement puts at play but also to the calculations done on the part of the government and security forces about the leverage of the movement.
González Vaillant, G. and Poma, F.P. (2021), "The Morphology of Repression: Dialectics between Chilean Students and State Force Actions
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