The call of President Iván Duque to negotiate the conditions to end the strikes that have kept Colombia blocked for two weeks has not prevented another massive mobilization from developing in the streets this Wednesday. The marches have had a festive and vindictive atmosphere in cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín or Bucaramanga. The main demand of the protesters is that the Government stop the police repression and be more forceful when it comes to censoring it. The violence has cost the lives of more than 40 people so far.
The march of the union movements, one of the main among the twenty concentrations called for the new day of the national strike in Bogotá, advanced like a sort of parade towards the Plaza de Bolívar, in the heart of the capital, to the festive rhythm of acrobats and batucadas. The abundant groups of percussionists, and the deafening cars with sound equipment that accompanied the protesters, marked the passage in the middle of a sea of colorful flags and posters of the main workers’ centrals, gathered in the strike committee that has not yet given a formal response to the negotiation table to which the Government has opened. The dominant chorus was an adaptation of Beautiful Hello to request the departure of President Duque.
“The Government must make a stronger statement to the national police and to those who are committing abuses with the population that this must stop. The marches must have full guarantees ”, says to EL PAÍS, in the middle of the mobilization, Diogenes Orjuela, secretary general of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores and member of the strike committee. “We are capable of demonstrating our peaceful expression and that the Government removes from its head the idea that it has to contain them at the point of repression,” he says. Before noon they informed him that this was the most extensive mobilization in terms of cities and municipalities since the crisis began on April 28. “We hope that this will convince the Government to send the message of guarantees for expressions of protest,” he says.
All this “accumulation of indignation”, he values, comes from the wave of protests of November 2019, with a list of neglected claims, and the refusal of the Government to negotiate the tax reform was only the trigger, so that his withdrawal “did not it was the central objective ”. Episodes of police brutality have strained the dialogues. This central objective “continues to be a negotiating table between the Government and the national strike committee with full guarantees so that there are no deaths, injuries, detainees or disappearances,” Orjuela emphasizes.
The protests against the government started two weeks ago. A few days later, Duque withdrew the tax reform that meant a tax increase. He dropped his finance minister. None of that pleased the protesters. Then they began to become acquainted with videos and with the account of witnesses that the police, in certain places, had used war tactics to quell the protests. Most of the victims of these attacks were young. That ignited the anger of the protesters.
Completed regions and cities were blocked by protesters. The tension rose. In cities like Cali there was looting and disorder. Armed civilians filmed themselves trying to set up checkpoints and shooting protesters. None of them have been officially detained. On the other hand, three policemen have been arrested on charges of homicide. There are 20 other open investigations. There are hundreds of detainees for committing acts of vandalism. The protesters complain that the government is very forceful with a type of violence, but tolerates that of the security forces.
In the square of Rosario, on the traditional Jiménez avenue, an indigenous flag still flies over the empty pedestal of the statue of the Spanish founder of Bogotá, Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, which a group of indigenous Mizak demolished in the framework of the protests. “Avenida mizak” reads a sign. Dana Riveros, a 21-year-old political science student, wearing a mask and a Colombian flag, demonstrates at the scene, carrying a banner that says “indigenous people are also citizens.” She wrote it shocked by how the Colombian media spoke of clashes “between citizens and indigenous people” in the city of Cali. “I’ve been dating since 2019”, pushed by the demands of the student movement, the failed tax reform and the need to reform the police. “My perception of the marches is that there have been no root solutions, that’s why they continue,” he values.
“It’s always quiet around here,” he says while serving a latte the cashier of a café of an international chain in the middle of the route of more than three kilometers between the national park and the square. The place, like almost all the ones on the route, is open, although with its windows boarded up. “We are quiet working, the ones who have to leave are you,” Moises, a 25-year-old migrant from Venezuela, tells the client who has his hair cut at a hairdresser on the platform where the human tide advances. Several protesters pause for a cut and then continue on their way. “It is my turn to look for the potato; If we see that things get hot, we lower the gate, ”explains Moises about the possibility of some kind of disturbance later.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.