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Chilean Artist Francisco Tapia Burns Financial Documents To 'Free' Students From Debt

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A Chilean artist hatched a plan to burn $500 million worth of student loan documents in order to
A Chilean artist hatched a plan to burn $500 million worth of student loan documents in order to "free" university students from the debt.

If only it were that easy.

To protest rising student loan debt, one Chilean activist and artist decided to take matters into his own hands and destroyed a large stack of promissory notes in order to "free" students from debt. In a YouTube video, Francisco Tapia, aka "Papas Fritas" (French fries), confesses to burning a projected $500 million in student loan documents after stealing the financial paperwork from the Universidad del Mar during a student takeover of the campus in Santiago.

"It’s over, it’s finished,” Tapia said in the video, posted on May 12. "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."

Tapia recently put the remains of the student loan documents on display at the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral, a cultural center in Santiago. Police collected the ashes Thursday in an investigation into the alleged theft after Tapia admitted to stealing and destroying the university's property.

While the burning of the documents was also meant as a statement against the private, for-profit university, which Chile's Education Ministry recently shut down for financial irregularities, it seems Tapia was not far from achieving his goal of freeing thousands of students from debt. As The Santiago Times reports, the now-defunct university will have to individually sue each student whose promissory note was burned, in order to continue to collect on the student loan debt.

Tapia may also face jail time for the stunt. The Chilean artist and activist will be brought before a court in Santiago for the damage.

University students in Chile have increasingly spoken out against profit-seeking schools and what actions -- or lack thereof -- the education minister has taken against these universities. The protests against systemic problems with education in the country date back to 2011.

Though educational institutions in Chile are required to operate on a nonprofit basis, many apparently circumvent the system by using legal loopholes.

Watch the Spanish-language video Tapia released, in which the artist details why he set fire to the student debt documents, below.

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Chilean activist sets fire to $500 mn worth of student debt documents