Chile students clash with police in Santiago

Officers battle students who set up flaming street barricade in capital, three months into educational reform protests.

    Clashes between Chilean students and police have continued in the capital city of Santiago, while government bureaucrats meet with student leaders to negotiate an end to the unrest which has rocked the capital for weeks.

    On Thursday, a group of students from the Metropolitan Technological University set up a flaming street barricade at about 7:45am, according to Santiago's Emol news service.

    When special police forces arrived, the students reportedly went inside a university building and threw petrol bombs, rocks and other objects at police, who responded with a vehicle-mounted water cannon.

    Students also took over a high school in Santiago for two days, blocking the school's entrance with chairs and desks, until police cleared them out with tear gas and water cannons.

    Fifty students were reportedly arrested in the incident, adding to 900 arrests reported last week.

    La Tercera, another local newspaper, reported on Thursday that the heads of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies are in talks with representatives of the student movement.

    'Government not listening'

    The clashes come a day after the city's fifth major protest in the capital, where tens of thousands of teachers, students, parents and community members took to the streets to demand education reforms.

    The demonstrations in recent months have drawn the biggest crowds for protests in Chile since the end of the military dictatorship in 1990.

    The student protest has had a significant impact on Sebastian Pinera's, the Chilean president's, popularity rating, which sank to 26 per cent according to an opinion poll published last week, the lowest support rating for any Chilean president since 1990.

    Among the students' demands are a state takeover of the public school system, which is currently run by local authorities, causing, according to protesters, deep inequalities in educational access between very small geographic areas.

    Students also want easier access to higher education, saying that the current educational system leaves university graduates in spiralling debt.

    "The government is not listening to us, we want a new education system in Chile and the government proposals do not address what we want," said Manuel Soto, a protester from the University of Santiago.

    "The protests will continue ... until the government gives us better education."

    Chile has the highest per capita income of any country in South America, but the most disproportionate income disparity in the region.

    Student movement leaders have called for a protest against the mayor of Santiago on August 16 and said on Wednesday that they are organising a march for September 3 in which they hope to have half a million people in attendance.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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