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Hundreds arrested in Chilean student protests

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The government says Friday that 874 protesters were arrested
  • The protests are over educational reforms
  • Protesters want the government to provide more funds for education

(CNN) -- The aftermath of clashes between protesters and police in Chile this week over educational reforms included nearly 900 people arrested and 90 police officers injured, a government spokesman said Friday.

Local media reported that spokesman Andres Chadwick said 874 people had been arrested across the country in street protests that the government opposed because it had not authorized them.

The biggest demonstrations were in the capital, Santiago, where students and some professors took to the streets, as they have been doing for weeks, to call for the repeal of dictatorship-era laws that had chopped the amount of money spent on education.

President Sebastian Pinera had said publicly earlier this week that the protesters' message had been heard, and that his government would be open to talk of reforms. But the chances of negotiations seemed slimmer after Thursday's crackdown on protesters as they demonstrated despite not receiving permits from the government.

"We hope a dialogue will always exist, that there is always room for negotiation," Karen Boisier, an engineering student, told CNN en Espa˝ol. "But we want negotiations based on our claims, and not something they are imposing on us."

Chileans have a constitutional right to express themselves through protest, she said.

"I think this is a lesson for the government because they have to realize we are a social movement, and that they can't repress their own people, but have to listen to them," Boisier said.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Rodrigo Ubilla said that protesters had to be confronted because they were purposefully blocking roads and otherwise disrupting the public.

"We can say that this so-called 'repression' is not so," he told CNN Chile.

He blamed a "minority" of the protesters for inciting violence, while police tried to restore order.

"There is a minority group of (protest) leaders who prefer violence. They prefer Molotov cocktails, they prefer throwing rocks," he said.