Police used water cannons to break up a protest in Chile’s capital Wednesday by thousands of students demanding free education, and hooded vandals set ablaze three city buses amid violence that left dozens arrested and injured.
The crisis over education reform in Chile remains unresolved despite more than a year of demonstrations by students, teachers and families. The marches have mostly been peaceful but often end with clashes between police in riot gear and groups of vandals armed with sticks that loot shops and hurl rocks and Molotov cocktails.
Chile’s government said student leaders cannot be exempt from responsibility for the burning of the Transantiago mass transit system buses in Wednesday’s protest, during which 75 people were arrested and 49 policemen were injured.
“The leaders are opening the doors to vandalism and delinquency,” presidential spokesman Andres Chadwick said. “How much more should we put up with these illegal marches that call on school takeovers and that threaten a violent August? What does that have to with education?”
Santiago’s municipal government had banned the students from flooding the streets of the capital, fearing the protest would turn violent. The transportation ministry said damages to the public buses would cost Chile’s capital about 400 million pesos ($836,000).