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Chilean students protest corruption scandals, demand president act on education reform

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SANTIAGO, Chile — Thousands of students marched through the streets of Chile's capital Thursday to protest recent corruption scandals and to complain about delays in a promised education overhaul.

Police said about 20,000 people took part, while student organizers estimated the crowd at about 150,000. The gathering was largely peaceful, but violence broke out at the end when small bands of hooded protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs at police.

Authorities said seven police officers had minor injuries and 134 protesters were taken into custody.

PHOTO: A protester is detained by police during a demonstration in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Thousands of students marched through the streets of Chile’s capital to protest recent corruption scandals and to complain about delays in a promised education overhaul. While it was largely peaceful, violence broke out at the end when hooded protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs at police. At least one officer was injured. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)
A protester is detained by police during a demonstration in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Thousands of students marched through the streets of Chile’s capital to protest recent corruption scandals and to complain about delays in a promised education overhaul. While it was largely peaceful, violence broke out at the end when hooded protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs at police. At least one officer was injured. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

Past student marches focused on pressuring President Michelle Bachelet to fulfill her campaign promise of education reform. Students now say they are fed up waiting for changes and are disgusted by a series of corruption scandals involving politicians and the business elite.

The scandals include a controversy over a bank loan involving Bachelet's son and campaign financing involving right-wing politicians and a prominent financial company. Another tax-related election-financing scandal at Chilean SQM mining company forced the resignation of its chief executive.

"We need to protest against this caste of corrupt politicians and businessmen who are involved and who are not ruling for a majority, and instead they're cooking up the reforms behind four walls," said Aurora Isidora Rozas, a spokeswoman for the coordinating assembly of high school students.

Students waved banners demanding changes in an education system characterized by poor public schools, expensive private universities and unprepared teachers.


Associated Press writers Luis Andres Henao and Mauricio Cuevas contributed to this report.

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PHOTO: A woman strikes a police truck with her hand during a protest march in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, April 16, 2015. Thousands of students marched through the streets of Chile’s capital to protest recent corruption scandals and to complain about delays in a promised education overhaul. While it was largely peaceful, violence broke out at the end when hooded protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs at police. (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)
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