Students receive new education undersecretary with cautious praise

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Published On : Wed, Feb 5th, 2014

Following the resignation of Claudia Peirano, Bachelet’s new appointment Valentina Quiroga draws praise and skepticism from within the student movement.

Students receive new education undersecretary with cautious praise

New education undersecretary Valentina Quiroga . Photo via Valentina Quiroga / Facebook

After Michelle Bachelet’s newly appointed cabinet was rocked by the resignation of Claudia Peirano as education undersecretary, the president-elect’s replacement Valentina Quiroga provoked a mixed reaction Tuesday from both new and old figures in the student movement.

Quiroga was welcomed by Giorgio Jackson — student leader-cum-deputy-elect who was at the heart of calls for education reform that shook President Sebastián Piñera’s administration and ensured the issue defined last year’s election.

“I think she is very prepared for the role and devoted to the issues — we await her first actions [in the role],” the former Universidad Católica Student Federation leader told local press Tuesday. Jackson’s ties with Quiroga run deep — the former student leader alluded to holding many meetings with her over the past two years, not least of which in her capacity as manager of finances during his run for deputy as founder of the Democratic Revolution (RD) party.

Quiroga, a former student representative herself, coordinated the education program in Bachelet’s platform and is co-founder of Educación 2020, a non-profit organization that seeks to improve public education. Free of the conflicts of interest that spelled the end for Peirano and with experience within the sector, Quiroga’s appointment was also celebrated by Moisés Paredes, spokesman for the influential highschool student association, Cones.

“Two pieces of good news today: Claudia Peirano decides to step down and Valentina Quiroga will replace her,” Paredes tweeted.

Naschla Aburman, however, was cynical about the prospect of Quiroga’s tenure in government. The current FEUC leader has consistently criticized the education platform Quiroga helped pen for its apparent lack of hard policy.

“If there is anyone who can explain the fine print and priorities of Bachelet’s education program, it must be her [Quiroga],” Aburman told El Mercurio Tuesday.

If Aburman was unsure about Quiroga’s alignment with student demands, Eloísa González was far more accusatory. The former spokesperson for high school student group Aces identified Quiroga’s associates in the non-profit sector as cause for concern.

“Valentina Quiroga is a member of the Educación 2020 organization along with [fellow co-founder] Mario Weissbluth who recently made clear that he’s not in favor of free, quality and public education for all,” González told CNN Chile, referencing a La Tercera blog published November last year in which he labeled high school protesters “childish revolutionaries.”

In a conversation with El Mercurio Tuesday, Weissbluth criticized the pressure that student movement figures placed on Peirano in the lead up to her resignation, saying they were too soon calling for a head in a process of reform that would take time. However, he was effusive in his celebration of Quiroga’s appointment, and insisted the future administration’s stance on education reform was in-line with that of his organization.

“It almost totally reflects what we stand for,” he said.

By Belinda Torres-Leclercq (belinda@santiagotimes.cl)
Copyright 2014 – The Santiago Times

About the Author

Belinda Torres-Leclercq
Belinda Torres-Leclercq
Belinda studied political sciences and Latin American studies in several European Universities. She wrote on food issues for Latin American news organization Noticias.nl and blogs about Chilean politics for MO*. Contact her at belinda@santiagotimes.cl or follow her at @BelindaMTL on Twitter.