Colombia witnessed another day of mobilization against the right-wing government of President Ivan Duque on Wednesday, after a week of demonstrations marred by violence and whose police repression was condemned by the international community.
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Trade unions, students, natives and other sectors have started to mobilize in the main cities of the country against health, education, security policies and to denounce abuses by the police. The latest official report, dating from Monday morning, reported at least 19 dead, 87 missing and 846 injured during the protests in recent days, most of them nonetheless peaceful. Local NGOs denounced higher figures, in particular Temblores with 31 dead. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) for its part deplored 76 attacks against journalists, including 10 injured by the police. On Wednesday in Bogota, demonstrators rallied various assembly points, carrying slogans such as "
The National Strike Committee, at the origin of the mobilization, called to join Bolivar Square, the heart of the capital where the seat of the presidency and the parliament are located.
Burnt down police stations
Traces of the violence, especially from the day before, remained visible in the south of the city: burnt police stations, vandalized bus stations and bank branches, tire residues still in flames on the roadway, etc.
It hurts to see that, but hurts us even more the negligence of this deaf government, which prefers to resort to the public force, to support the banks, the big companies, rather than to help
People, 54-year-old housewife Ofelia Robayo told AFP. Serious clashes overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday in Bogota left 46 injured, including 16 officers, in attacks on police stations. By mid-morning, the demonstrators were about 8,000 gathered in Medellin (northwest), Colombia's second city, against a background of music and slogans against the hard-right ex-president Alvaro Uribe (2000-2010), political mentor by Ivan Duque.
Access to Cali (southwest), epicenter of violence in particular Monday evening, remained blocked, while this city, one of the most dangerous in Latin America, began to suffer from shortages, in particular of fuels.
Uribism has declared us a military objective
" denounced in particular some 3000 natives in allusion to the former head of state, famous for his policy of iron fist towards the left guerrillas.
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The mobilization began on April 28 against a tax reform project, which according to its critics affected the middle class and was inappropriate in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, aggravating the economic crisis. The president withdrew it, promising a new text, excluding the most contested points such as the VAT hike and the broadening of the income tax base. Its finance minister has resigned. But the mobilization is organized under new slogans against the policies of Mr. Duque, whose five-year term will end in August 2022. The United Nations, the European Union, the United States and organizations rights groups on Tuesday denounced the disproportionate use of force by the police.
The night before in Cali, where several hundred soldiers and police were sent as reinforcements, clashes had left five dead and thirty wounded, according to the local security secretariat.
The government argued that dissidents from the Farc, who rejected the peace agreement signed in 2016 by the ex-guerrillas, as well as the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country's latest rebellion, and narco gangs - traffickers orchestrated the unrest.
Spaces for dialogue
While providing support to the police, Ivan Duque said Tuesday that he would open "
spaces for dialogue
" with the various sectors, but without specifying the modality. This conservative president, whose popularity is at half mast at 33%, has been faced with multiple protests since 2019, in a country in recession and affected by an upsurge in the armed conflict that has undermined him for nearly sixty years.
Latin America's 4th largest economy is facing its worst crisis in half a century, with gross domestic product (GDP) falling 6.8% in 2020 and declared unemployment of 16.8% in March. While almost half of the working population lives in the informal economy, poverty has worsened to 42.5%. The situation worsened with the pandemic, as Colombia faces a third wave of contagions, having already passed the 2.9 million Covid-19 cases, including more than 75,000 deaths, out of 50 million inhabitants .