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A protester runs as an armored police vehicle drives toward a barricade set up by protesters at the entrance of the University of Chile during a national strike in Santiago, Chile, Wednesday Aug. 24, 2011. The writing on the wall reads “General strike.” A nationwide strike shutting down Chile for two days has begun with people stoning buses and police clearing nearly two-dozen burning barricades around the capital of Santiago. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

Sebastian Pinera, president of Chile, has issued strong words to student protesters who have staged mass demonstrations to demand government-funded education, telling them “someone has to pay”.

"We all want education, healthcare, and many more things for free, but I want to remind them that nothing is free in this life. Someone has to pay," said Pinera on Thursday.

Pinera was speaking at a ceremony to sign an education bill meant to appease the student groups that again  clashed with police in Santiago on Thursday.  

Pinera said the bill will give the government more budgetary and supervisory control over municipal schools but he brushed aside suggestions that there could be free education for all in Chile.

"If we give free education to 10 per cent of the most favoured in society, what we would be doing is taxing all of society, including the poor, to finance the education for the lucky ones," he said.

A free public education system for all has been the main demand of protesters since Pinera announced plans two months ago to cut spending on education.

The protest movement, which has attracted widespread public support, has knocked Pinera’s popularity to 26 per cent.

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