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Violence erupts as Chile students launch fresh protests

Student demonstrators in Chile re-launch their protest movement and set barricades on fire as police fire tear gas, after negotiations with the government over educational reform have halted

AFP , Wednesday 19 Oct 2011
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Demonstrators challenge riot police officers outside the 'Universidad de Chile' in Santiago, Chile, October 6, 2011 (Photo: AP)
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Students demanding free higher education set fire to manned barricades Tuesday in a new round of protests that were greeted by police armed with tear gas and water cannons, police said. "There are various place in the capital where the barricades have been set on fire," a police official said, asking not to be identified.

In some areas, students hurled Molotov cocktails and there were reports of a local transport bus being set ablaze. It was not immediately known if there were any casualties linked to the violence.

The students are re-launching a protest movement, which began in May with mass demonstrations, after negotiations with the government over their demands for sweeping education reform broke down.

With both sides far apart, Chileans were bracing for two days of confrontations in the streets of the capital. The city's emblematic Alameda Avenue was gridlocked after protesters set fire to barricades near the University of Chile and the University of Santiago.

Television footage showed police using water cannons to try to clear the streets of protesters, on the first day of what has been planned as a two-day demonstration organized by the Students' Confederation.

The demonstrators vowed more turmoil overnight and over the course of the day Wednesday, when huge protest marches were planned in downtown Santiago. The latest phase of the student upheaval in Chile coincides with youth-led Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and other major cities across the globe.

The students said they have decided to refuse further negotiations with the government because it had not moved toward their demands for free public education through university. At the moment, only about 40 percent of students qualify for free education based on parents' income.

Classes have been on hold for months in many schools and universities during the long-running demonstrations, which routinely draw tens of thousands of students into the streets. It is the largest protest movement in Chile since General Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship ended in 1990.

The government has said the students are radicals with whom it has been futile to negotiate.

A general strike in August in support of the students led to an eruption of clashes and violence.

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