Police, student protesters clash in Chile’s Santiago


Police in the Chilean capital Santiago has fired water cannon at student protesters during a rally against the government’s educational reforms.

Students from the National Coordinator of Secondary Students (CONES) staged the demonstration on Thursday to urge the government to make higher education free in the South American country.

The protest began peacefully but violence erupted after police turned the students from the route that had been previously approved by officials.

Protesters, instead, gathered at a location near the blocked route, trying to cross the limits and get to the blocked street.

Police used water cannon to disperse protesters. Several demonstrators responded with throwing stones and other objects at police officers.

A number of students were arrested during the clash.

Another demonstration is planned for May 11.

A series of student demonstrations have been held in Chile over the past few years because of the country’s infamously-expensive and poorly-run system that has been steadily privatized.

Demonstrators have been calling on Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to implement education reforms and gradually introduce free university education.

Her government is pushing through reforms, such as bolstering teacher pay and conditions, providing extra funds for poor students and bringing the public schools under national jurisdiction.

Last year, the Congress approved the first series of education reforms and removed selective entrance policies of public schools and put an end to profits at the schools.

Protesters, however, said the reforms were not enough and asked the government to make higher education free for all students.

Seafood ban angers fishermen

Also on Thursday, fishermen in the Chilean island of Chiloe in Puerto Montt blocked off access to the island in protest to the government’s decision to ban the region’s seafood.

The decision came after a state of emergency was declared in 11 towns after their seafood was found to be contaminated by the toxin red tide. The contamination came as a result of increasing sea temperatures due to El Nino weather condition.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the fishermen who have been on strike since Monday. They said the government’s decision was unproductive.