Santiago on high alert as Chilean students protest

CHILEAN students took to the streets yesterday, staging nationwide demonstrations and demanding free education.

Riot police patrolled the streets of Santiago, the capital, and many shopkeepers shut their doors, fearing outbreaks of looting.

Security forces used water cannon to break up groups of demonstrators, some of whom threw petrol bombs and rocks.

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Few students have seen any real benefits after two years of marches that raised hopes across Chile for education reform.

The marches began during the 2006-10 government of Michelle Bachelet and have troubled president Sebastian Pinera even more.

Mr Pinera’s government is focusing a chunk of the 2013 budget on financing school loans at lower rates.

However, students say the system is still fails them, with poor public schools, expensive private universities, ill-prepared teaching staff and unaffordable loans.