Chilean Robin Hood burns $500m worth of student loans

Why pay back your student debt when you can just find the papers at university and set fire to them?

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Students marching against university profits via / Santiago Times

Here in the UK, we all think, "Yeah, I'll pay back my loan one day, when or if I ever earn enough." Perhaps we should take a leaf out of the book of one Francisco Tapia, a student/artist in Chile who has taken anti-debt combativeness to another level by burning student loan documents for $500 million worth of debt, and claims that he has "freed" students from the chains that bound them.

In a YouTube video posted a week ago, the South American Robin Hood confessed to the crime: "It’s over, it’s finished. You don’t have to pay another peso. We have to lose our fear, our fear of being thought of as criminals because we’re poor. I am just like you, living a shitty life, and I live it day by day – this is my act of love for you."

During a student takeover of the Universidad del Mar campus this month, Tapia gained access to the papers and destroyed them in protest at the country's controversial student loans system and private profitmaking universities. In 2011, the average Chilean student graduated with around $45,000 worth of debt – one of the highest levels in the world.

Tapia will now be brought before a Chilean court for damages. The Santiago Times reports that the university will now have to individually sue each student to continue collecting the debt.

Two years ago, Chile's student protest proved itself to be powerful when it forced Teodoro Ribera, the justice minister at the time, to resign after it was revealed that he had strong links with a private university and Luis Eugenio Díaz, who was found with emails on his computer showing that he would charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for accreditation approval. Once a Chilean university is accredited, it becomes eligible for large sums of government funding.

Since 2011, students have marched against a system that, over time, is being exposed as being riddled with corruption. They accuse private universities of operating scams that cheat students and taxpayers and line the pockets of the establishments.

CIPERCHILE is a journalism collective that uncovered much of the corruption, money laundering and shady backhanders that are at the heart of the scandal. It took a long time for the students to get their voices heard, and now, as the case unravels, their suspicions and accusations have been proved correct. Tapia and his actions are emblematic of a student community that have had their patience tested for too long by a system with no regard for their welfare and no concern for their future.

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