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Chilean students break off talks, set to return to streets

Chilean student representatives break off talks with the government and promise a new march on Santiago's streets in a matter of hours

AFP , Thursday 6 Oct 2011
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Camila Vallejo, Chilean student leader before meeting with Chile's Education Minister, Wednesday (Photo: Reuters)
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After five months of protests and now two negotiating sessions, students decided to call off their high-profile and often tense effort to negotiate education reforms, saying there was no change of heart in the executive branch in favour of public education.

"We believe that under these conditions, it is impossible to continue at the table," said Camila Vallejo, a key leader of the student movement, after meeting with Education Minister Felipe Bulnes for four hours.

Students want free public education through university-level studies. At the moment, only about 40 percent of students qualify for free education based on parents' low income.

Bulnes has suggested the government might expand the percentage of students who qualify for free education, but has not spoken of free universal higher education.

"The government should be guaranteeing free education and that is not in their proposal," Vallejo said. She said students would be back on the streets Thursday for their 37th protest march in five months.

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