Although the protests have subsided in some of the main cities of Colombia, almost a month later the street keeps the pulse of the Iván Duque government. While the Executive and the strike committee move slowly to establish a negotiating table, thousands of people continue to mobilize as part of unprecedented protests, one of the longest in recent years. In Bogotá, the morning was for the teachers who went out amid a festive atmosphere to the Plaza de Bolívar, in the center of the capital; In the afternoon, about 300 people gathered at the monument to Los Héroes, which has become one of the most emblematic points in this cycle of mobilizations, mainly among young people, who in other days have come by the thousands in an authentic human tide.
In a relaxed atmosphere, some protesters stuck posters on the empty podium of the statue of the liberator Simón Bolívar that they have tried to demolish and the mayor’s office decided to withdraw it over the weekend due to structural risk. “We hoped it would be big, today there are not so many people,” concedes Sofía López, a 20-year-old student who has taken to the streets since April 28. He points out that perhaps on Friday, one month after the national strike, the calls will take flight again. “I am affected by deaths and police abuses. Something that I would like to achieve with the marches is a reform of the police ”, he points out as he leaves, holding a Colombian flag in his hand, to another point in the city.
But in the Colombian Pacific regions that are still the scene of protests, excesses and roadblocks continue to occur. On Tuesday night, the flames destroyed the Palace of Justice in Tuluá, a city in the department of Valle del Cauca, in one of several acts of vandalism denounced by the mayor. In the midst of the riots and clashes with the public force, a law student died. The Jamundí mayor’s office had already burned, and Cali, the departmental capital, has been the epicenter of episodes of violence. There, thousands of people irritated by the national strike held a “march of silence” the day before, a kind of counter-protest with the aim of calling for the end of the roadblocks that are threatening the regional economy.
It was also in Valle del Cauca, on the road between Cali and the port of Buenaventura, where a baby died on Sunday aboard an ambulance detained in the demonstrations, fueling criticism against the blockades and reports of attacks on the medical workers. Cargo continues to accumulate in the main Colombian port on the Pacific, and Duque himself went to Buenaventura this week to promise a logistics corridor that would allow the merchandise to be moved to the center and south of the country. And in Popayán, the capital of the neighboring department of Cauca, there have also been some of the most serious clashes, and the worst episodes of excessive use of force, after a young woman denounced the sexual assault of several police officers and apparently committed suicide.
The abundant images of police brutality in different parts of Colombia have put Defense Minister Diego Molano on the ropes, who this week has faced two separate debates on a motion of no confidence in Congress. The crisis has already claimed the heads of other members of the Cabinet: the finance minister who designed the failed tax reform that opened the box of thunder and the chancellor who failed to respond to the growing external criticism of the repression of the protests. The Senate is preparing to vote on Molano on Thursday, although it seems unlikely that the opposition will get enough support to remove the official who has become another target of public anger.
“I am a youth teacher, and it hurts my soul that they are killing me,” says Norma Ramírez, a 40-year-old biology teacher, as she marches this Wednesday in Bogotá’s emblematic seventh race. “The town asks for food and Duque responds with bullets. Out with Molano! Dismantle the Esmad now! ”Reads his poster, popular with marchers, in reference to the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad of the police. “It is necessary to change some policies that have been coming for many years, but the departure of Molano could in some way calm the spirits of young people in the streets,” he values.
For their part, the Government and the national strike committee are making slow progress in their approaches. The high commissioner for peace, Miguel Ceballos, who has just resigned from his position, assured that they worked on a pre-agreement document to move towards a negotiation. However, they still analyze the text. “We have not advanced in the installation of a negotiating table. The blockades continue to be a major obstacle for access to food, medicine and for the full exercise of fundamental rights to be allowed, ”said Ceballos, who worked until Tuesday although he will continue to accompany the dialogues. He has been relieved as a sort of negotiating leader by the presidential adviser for Stabilization (formerly Post-conflict), Emilio Archila. The strike committee has demanded as initial steps guarantees for the mobilization, that the repression cease, that the president openly condemn the police violence and that he allow the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. While they continue their meetings, new mobilizations are already being called in the streets of the whole country.
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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.