Latin America & Caribbean

Chile student demonstration turns violent in Santiago

Police grabs student during demonstration in Santiago Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Students said they were demonstrating peacefully when they were attacked by police

A student demonstration in Chile has turned violent as police used tear gas and water cannons to divert the march.

Protesters refused to take an alternative route suggested by police in central Santiago and hurled stones at them, the government said.

Students said they were brutally attacked by riot police.

They are demanding that the government of Michelle Bachelet speed up reforms that will guarantee free university education for all Chileans.

"We are tired of waiting," read banners carried by students in the demonstration.

President Bachelet took office in 2014, promising to implement a number of social measures to reduce inequality. She had served a first term between 2006 and 2010.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Chilean government said the students insisted on marching along an unauthorised route
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police used high-pressure water cannons to break up the protest

One of the most contentious issues during the government of her centre-right predecessor, Sebastian Pinera, was Chile's educational system, which critics say favours the private sector.

She said policies guaranteeing everyone a free education would show that the country was heading in the right direction.

Last year, however, Ms Bachelet's government scaled down the reforms as Chile faced an economic downturn.

Many left-wingers felt betrayed by the change of pace.

On Saturday, during Ms Bachelet's annual state-of-the-nation address violent protests erupted in Valparaiso.

Demonstrators set up barricades and hurled firebombs in Valparaiso, where Chile's Congress meets. Police fired tear gas and water cannon.

A security guard died from fume inhalation when masked protestors burned a pharmacy and supermarket.

"We are going to stay on the streets. From today onwards, we expect that the protests will only intensify," said Marta Matamala, head of the University of Santiago student union.

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