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Students occupy Chile schools in call for reforms

16 august 2012, 12:10
Students demanding education reform briefly occupied two schools in the Chilean capital Monday, the latest move aimed at drawing attention to their cause, AFP reports.

Under threat of an imminent police eviction, the students peacefully left the downtown Santiago schools.

But student protester Diego Mellado vowed they would take back the schools "if necessary."

Last week, authorities used tear gas and water cannons to crack down on student protesters who torched three city buses.

Protesting students remain in control of eight other high schools in Santiago, seized last week in a revival of the student protests that swept the country last year.

Santiago Mayor Pablo Zalaquett has denounced the occupations, saying the students involved should not get scholarships.

"Obviously it is better that scholarships go to the students who want to study," he said.

Public education in Chile suffered from sharp cuts in funding during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, leaving a system that favors expensive private institutions that are out of the reach of the poor.

The protesters, who are demanding free university education and central government control over public schools, have called for more protests on August 23 and 28.

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