Chilean students throng streets, gov't seen suffering

Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:33pm GMT

* Latest in a series of anti-government protests

* President Pinera unpopular despite economic boom

* Legislative agenda may falter, financial reforms safe

By Alexis Krell and Simon Gardner

SANTIAGO, June 16 (Reuters) - Defying police water canon and tear gas, tens of thousands of students marched in Chile's capital and main cities on Thursday, the latest in a series of protests seen obstructing the government's legislative agenda.

Carrying banners that read "Don't profit" (from public education), students demanded improved education standards, lower university fees and cheaper bus passes from Chile's center-right government.

Television images showed some protesters, wearing T-shirts over their faces, throwing rocks at armored police vans that spewed tear gas in the capital Santiago. Buses were covered in student slogan graffiti.

Most of the protesters -- estimated by police at around 70,000 in the capital alone -- marched peacefully in one of the biggest rallies since President Sebastian Pinera took office last year, ending 20 years of center-left rule in Chile.

Student protests have plagued successive governments in a country where students must pay towards their state education, and are piling fresh pressure on the embattled administration.   Continued...

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