Jim McMahon/Mapman®

Recent protests led by students in Chile may bring historic changes to the nation. The movement began last fall when teens demonstrated in the country’s capital, Santiago, against an increase in subway fares. Millions of other Chileans soon joined in. Their demands grew to focus on a major issue facing the country: economic inequality.

Chile is one of the wealthiest nations in South America. But the difference in income between the country’s richest residents and many other Chileans is huge.

Large numbers of Chileans have high debt and don’t earn enough money to live on. Protesters want higher wages and better access to education and health care. They also want Chile’s constitution to be rewritten to ensure those things.

In response to the protests, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera scrapped the subway fare hike, vowed to raise the minimum wage, and made other pledges to help Chileans. The government also agreed to hold a vote to ask Chileans if they want a new constitution and, if so, how it should be drafted. 

Still, the protests continue. Although largely peaceful, they have turned violent at times. Some people have burned buildings and raided stores. Protesters have accused the police of brutality. More than 25 people have been killed, and thousands more have been injured during the demonstrations.

Many Chileans support the protests. “We’ve put up with inequality for too long,”one protester’s mother told a reporter. “Younger generations must fight for their future if they want one.”