May 24, 2013
Chile: over 800 in custody for protests
Over 800 people were detained across Chile yesterday when police fired tear gas and water cannons to dissolve student demonstrators demanding an education reforms to be carried out in Chile, government spokesman Andrés Chadwick said today.
"In total we have 874 in custody and over 90 policemen injured”, reported Chadwick to the local press.
Hundreds of students occupied a Chilean TV station until producers agreed to air their message. Later, thousands of students and teachers tried to meet at Santiago’s Plaza Italia after earlier clashes across the city where demonstrators had set up roadblocks, bringing traffic to a standstill.
About 200 students staged a peaceful takeover of Chilevision television station to communicate their demands. Protests have been mounting since President Sebastian Pinera announced wide-ranging education spending cuts earlier this year despite the country having one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America.
Chile currently dedicates 4.4 percent of the country's gross national product to education, far below the seven percent recommended by UNESCO.
Pinera has called on the students to reach a negotiated solution with the government, which this week presented a 21-point proposal for resolving the crisis - the second such offer since the conflict began.
The proposal would meet one of the students' key demands by enshrining the right to quality education in the constitution, and it includes an increase in grants and lower interest rates on student loans.
Students are expected to officially respond today, but the proposal has already been rejected by several powerful student unions.
Last month, at least 32 police were wounded and 54 demonstrators arrested as police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of protesters, who fought back with sticks, rocks and plastic bottles of paint.