SANTIAGO — Student and teachers' union leaders held their first meeting Saturday with President Sebastian Pinera following months of tensions and mass street protests that have jolted Chilean society.
The parties met for almost four hours at the La Moneda presidential palace to try to iron out negotiating positions on the future of education in the South American nation.
When the meeting ended, the government pledged to deliver a negotiating timetable on Monday to which the students and teachers have yet to agree.
Student leader Camila Vallejo said both sides had a chance to make their positions clear in detail.
Education Minister Felipe Bulnes called the talks "frank and useful. It was a very positive rapprochement."
So far students have said they were not standing down in their protests.
For three months, Chile has seen mass protests calling for the elimination of a voucher system that supports private universities and demanding free, higher quality education at public universities.
Students, workers, environmentalists and gay rights activists are among the tens of thousands who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to press demands on issues from building electric dams in Patagonia to improving education.
Pinera, a conservative billionaire whose popularity soared after the spectacular rescue of 33 Chilean miners last October after 69 days trapped underground, is facing growing discontent.
With the economy set to grow by more than six percent in 2011, many in the mineral-rich nation wonder why they are not sharing in the prosperity.
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