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Chile protests lead to 224 arrests as students evicted


08:39, June 28, 2013

SANTIAGO, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Chilean police have arrested a total of 224 students, including some 100 minors, in protests and sweeps to clear schools of occupiers demanding education reform, official sources said Thursday.

"The aftermath of Wednesday's protests led to 102 arrests due to disorderly conduct, out of which 53 are under age," said Eliecer Solar, head of the Metropolitan Area Carabineers in the capital Santiago.

Chile's Interior Minister Andres Chadwick, meanwhile, said a Thursday morning operation to evict dissident students occupying nearly 30 schools led "to 122 arrests in total."

Chadwick said police were sent to clear out 28 schools, including 21 in Santiago's metropolitan area and seven in four other regions of Chile, which are to serve as polling stations in upcoming presidential primary elections on Sunday.

"Since dialogue failed to provide the results we had hoped for and with 72 hours to go before the primary elections, the government was obligated to guarantee that the schools would be available for the prior preparatory work and for the day of the elections," said Chadwick.

The Chilean students have said they are finished talking with the government of President Sebastian Pinera and have stepped up protests in demand of free, quality education with an eye to upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in November.

The student movement, which began in 2011, held massive protests Wednesday that included the participation of teachers and healthcare, copper and port workers.

At Santiago's main Alameda Avenue Wednesday, some 100,000 protesters gathered peacefully at the Los Heroes central square, but more radical groups, faces covered with hoods or masks, clashed with riot police for several hours, throwing up roadblocks and looting. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

"It is unacceptable that the usual masked protesters try to paralyze the city, preventing people from arriving at their jobs and putting everyone's security at risk by using Molotov cocktails and barricades," said Juan Antonio Peribonio, Santiago's Mayor.

The dissident students described the protests as a success and condemned the violence, and indicated they will be taking part in a nationwide strike on July 11 organized by the trade unions.

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