After two decades of strong economic growth, social progress and enviable political stability, Chile has suddenly started behaving in a manner more akin to some of its neighbours. The past two months have seen huge protest marches by students, in which a small, violent minority have clashed with riot police. Housewives have banged saucepans in solidarity with the students. And this week the main trade-union confederation tried to bring the country to a halt in a two-day general strike—the most ambitious stoppage since the 1980s.
But many Chileans are no longer prepared to ignore what they see as flaws in their hard-won democracy in exchange for political stability and economic growth. Unless the politicians enact some sensible reforms quickly—of education, the electoral system and taxes—it is not clear what might happen next.