Bogota clashes amid Colombian student protests

 A student protester confronts riot police during a demonstration in Bogota, 12  October 2011 Demonstrations took place across Colombia

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Thousands of students have protested in the Colombian capital, Bogota, and other cities against government plans to reform higher education.

The demonstrations were mainly peaceful but Bogota police fired tear gas and used water cannon after some people threw stones, officials said.

Students say the proposed reforms will lead to partial privatisation of the public universities.

The government says the changes will bring more funding into the sector.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people marched through Bogota on Wednesday.

Student demonstrations were also held in other town and cities.

Most passed off without major incident, but in Cali a 19-year-old man died when explosives he was carrying went off, police said.

President Juan Manuel Santos's government says reform is needed to bring more resources into the university system and widen access.

Students say the moves will introduce a profit motive into higher education.

'Infiltrated'

In Chile, students have been demonstrating for months to demand for free education, and an end to for-profit institutions.

BBC Mundo's Arturo Wallace in Bogota says the protests in the two South American countries mirror one another.

Chilean students want reform to bring about free schooling; Colombian students do not want reform to avoid introducing a profit element into higher education.

There is a degree of wariness about social protest in Colombia, which has been mired for decades in civil conflict, our correspondent adds.

Last month, President Santos urged students to not let themselves be manipulated by rebel groups like the Farc.

"We know very well that it's the Farc strategy to stimulate social protest and infiltrate the protests to bring about violence and chaos," he said.

Student organisations deny they have been infiltrated by an illegal groups.

"We're an open civic movement, made up of university students from across the country," said Gisell Medina from the Federation of University Students told the Spanish news agency Efe.

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