Latin America & Caribbean

Chile protesters clash with police for second day

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Media captionProtesters and police in Santiago clash as the protest turns violent

Demonstrators in Chile have clashed with police in the capital, Santiago, on the second day of mass protests to demand free public education.

Hundreds of masked youths threw stones and bottles at the police and attacked a petrol station.

The police responded with tears gas and water cannon to disperse the crowds.

The government has warned it will invoke an emergency security law to help quell the protests - the biggest in Chile since 1990.

The students, backed by teachers and trade unions, called the latest two-day national strike after talks with the government broke down earlier this month.

'Free for all'

The demonstration on Wednesday started peacefully, with tens of thousands of people marching through the capital, many of them in fancy dress.

"Here in Chile education is all about profit. And that shouldn't be the case for something as basic as education," Felipe Pinilla, aged 17, told the BBC.

"For the sake of equality is should be free for all - for the rich, for the poor, for the middle class - for everyone," he added.

But as the march reached its conclusion, the carnival atmosphere evaporated, with a group of youths setting up a burning barricade on one street, the BBC's Gideon Long in Santiago reports.

The police move in, and for the next hour they fought a pitched battle with the demonstrators, our correspondent says.

On Tuesday, protesters set up burning barricades on several main avenues across the capital, blocking rush hour traffic. Masked assailants set fire to a city bus, and police raided university buildings in pursuit of suspects.

Plebiscite

Student leaders have condemned the violence and say it is not related to their movement for educational reform.

Representatives of the movement went to the heavily guarded presidential palace to present an unofficial plebiscite on their demand for educational reform.

More than 1.5 million people took part in the plebiscite, with 88.7% voting in favour of free, public, high quality education, the organisers said.

Student leaders are demanding wholesale reform of Chile's education system, which they say is unequal and under-funded.

They want the central government to take full control of education and increase spending on public schools and universities.

President Sebastian Pinera has responded by promising limited reforms and around $4bn (£2.6bn) in extra funding.

On Tuesday, he approved a law increasing subsidies for children from poor backgrounds attending private schools.

But he has categorically rejected calls for full state control and free education.

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