Chile was riding as high as the Andes when 2011 began. Widely touted as Latin America's most developed nation, it had won global acclaim a few months earlier for the miraculous rescue of 33 trapped miners. Thanks in part to that feel good story, billionaire President Sebastián Piñera enjoyed a 63% approval rating. But festering behind the fortunate façade were long unaddressed issues of inequality that belied Chile's First World status. Tens of thousands marched to protest Piñera's backing of a massive hydroelectric dam in pristine Patagonia, which seemed to symbolize the country's overindulgence of big business. The real hot button, however, was access to quality education and during Chile's southern hemisphere winter, students took to the streets en masse to force Piñera to address their grievances. Led by a charismatic 23-year-old, left-wing undergraduate, Camila Vallejo, the uprising, which has witnessed violent clashes between police and demonstrators, has grown into a broader demand for structural change in Chile. It has also sent the center-right Piñera's approval rating plunging as low as 27% (currently 31%), while as many as 79% (currently 67%) of Chileans have said they back the student protesters.
Next Amy Chua