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News number: 9107160024

13:03 | 2013-04-12


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Tear Gas, Water Cannons Fired as Chilean Mass Protest Turns Violent

TEHRAN (FNA)- Violent clashes erupted in Santiago as tens of thousands marched through the streets demanding education reforms in Chile.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds, and over 100 demonstrators were reportedly detained and eight officers injured as massive street protests once again rocked the city. One of the injured officers is said to be in critical condition after being hit by acid, RT reported.

Some 80,000 protesters took part in the demonstration, authorities said, while organizers, the Student Federation of the University of Chile, put the figure as high as 150,000.

The bulk of the protests did not see any major violent incidents, though small pockets of vandalism caused property damage and some protesters threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at riot police. The organizers complained of excessive use of force by police, who have employed riot control tactics such as water cannons and tear gas.

The protests, which have been ongoing in Chile since the 2006-2010 term of former President Michelle Bachelet, have proved to be an even larger political liability for her successor Sebastian Pinera.

Students taking part in the protests are demanding that the Chilean government provide free education, and have complained of inadequate public schools and unaffordable private universities. Though Pinera's administration vowed to allocate a portion of the country's 2013 budget to finance school loans at lower rates, student alliances seem dissatisfied with the government's lack of progress in the two-plus years of his term.

Chile is considered to have one of the best, and most expensive, education systems in Latin America. The country also has one of the world's lowest levels of public funding for higher education, which protesters believe has resulted in poor teaching quality and overall inequality in Chilean society.