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Tens of thousands march in Chile student protest

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Tens of thousands of Chilean students protested Thursday in Santiago, pressuring President Michelle Bachelet, who was swept into office pledging education reform, to live up to her word.

During an intense campaign that ended in a landslide victory in December, Bachelet promised free university-level education and to end state subsidies for private, for-profit colleges, which have put higher education out of reach of the poor.

But students Thursday were repeating demands they had rallied for over the past three years, leery of what they said has thus far been a lack of progress.

Around 23,000 people participated in the protest, police said, while organizers of the march, which brought together university and school students, said there were more than 80,000 participants.

Student leaders, who reported that they had met with the education minister, said the few reform details made public so far do not make clear whether their demands will be met.

The students were also asking for improved public education in general, another Bachelet campaign promise.

"Returning to the streets makes us happy, we will not stop until our demands are heard, no matter who is in the government," said Claudia, who joined the marchers filing through the streets with drums, dancers and banners calling for change.

Students marched by the Palacio de La Moneda, two years after conservative president Sebastian Pinera forbade them from passing by the front of the government seat.

Student protests had not been held in Chile since early September, when Pinera was still in office.

Ongoing student protests have occurred in Chile since 2011, when masses of students began rallying against one of the world's most privatized and segregated educational systems, a vestige of the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140508/tens-thousands-march-chile-student-protest