Peru police fire tear gas on protesting students, civil servants

LIMA Thu Jul 4, 2013 5:37pm EDT

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LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian police fired tear gas at hundreds of students and civil servants in Lima on Thursday as they marched towards Congress to protest reforms that would impose tougher standards on universities and bureaucrats.

Protesters lashed out at President Ollanta Humala for proposing the laws, which he says would improve the quality of sluggish government services and a lagging higher-education system. Critics say they would force thousands from their jobs and compromise the autonomy of Peru's universities.

Though the protests lacked the large size of recent demonstrations in Chile and Brazil that have defied political leaders, they could expose Humala to renewed criticism after several months of relative calm.

Humala, a former military officer, was elected in 2011 as a moderate leftist but critics say he has since drifted to the right.

Civil servants clashed with riot police as they tried to protest in front of the presidential palace - normally off-limits to rallies - a day after Humala signed a law that requires public employees to undergo annual performance evaluations.

A separate bill to reform universities and tighten standards for professors is pending in Congress.

Local television showed police firing tear gas and water cannons against protesters, some of whom wielded sticks and were throwing rocks. Several injuries were reported in Lima and at similar protests in several provincial capitals.

(This story was corrected to fix typo in fourth paragraph)

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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