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SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — Chilean police used water cannon and tear gas to break up a protest Wednesday by students demanding a bigger share of an economic boom led by mining profits, a demonstration marking the 41st anniversary of the nationalization of copper.
Chile is the world's top supplier of the metal and one of the healthiest economies in Latin America, but many Chileans feel the wealth hasn't trickled down. President Sebastian Pinera's government has been hit by large protests demanding improvements in education, housing and health.
"There are huge resources, but they're not being used to provide Chileans with the basic rights, especially education. Instead, the resources are being taken away by foreign companies," said student leader Camila Vallejo. "We want to recover our sovereignty. This is an issue of political will."
Students spread a giant Chilean flag outside the Santiago office of the Anglo American mining company and hung a large banner from the building that read: "If copper was Chilean, education would be free." Mining unionists joined them downtown blocking several streets and forcing the closing of businesses along a major pedestrian walkway in the Chilean capital.
Chile nationalized foreign owned copper companies under socialist President Salvador Allende in 1971. State-owned Codelco as a whole produces about 4 percent of the world's copper.