Conflicts & War

Calls for political dialog increase as Colombia protests continue

Bogota, May 6 (EFE).- Voices calling for dialog to end violence in Colombia are gaining prominence as protests against President Ivan Duque’s government continued, a week after they erupted against proposed tax reforms but now viewed as a reflection of the discontent of a large section of society.

As demonstrations continued for the ninth consecutive day on Thursday, Duque made a call to “listen to one another as a society and find solutions” although he has yet to reach out to the protest organizations.

A day earlier, the president accused drug-trafficking mafia of vandalism and looting during the protests.

The Mission to Support the Peace Process in Colombia of the Organization of American States (MAPP/OAS) said in a statement on Thursday that “these dialogs are necessary and urgent” as “the current situation demands the genuine gesture of all actors to discuss the issues that are of the greatest concern to Colombian society.”

“Dialog cannot be between the government and its friends. That would be a monologue that leads nowhere. With whom the government must engage is the National Strike Committee and it has to be a fair, honest, transparent dialog,” Alternative Democratic Pole opposition party senator Ivan Cepeda told EFE.

Another opposition lawmaker, María José Pizarro of the Humane Colombia party, told Congress of the need to give “a clear direction to the mobilizations” and added that “peaceful protests are welcome (because) social indignation has to be addressed.”

The protests, which began on Apr. 28 with a national strike against the now-withdrawn tax reform, are continuing for other reasons: against an attempt to reform health care, which may lead to further privatization of the sector, against police brutality and the complex insecurity situation in the country.

The demonstrations have once again exposed alleged excessive use of force by security forces against protesters. At least 24 demonstrators have died so far, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, and 37 according to non-profits organizations such as Temblores.

The United Nations, the European Union, the United States and international agencies have expressed concern over the excessive use of force at demonstrations.

Protests continued across Colombia on Thursday, albeit with a significantly lower attendance than on previous days.

In Bogota, several groups gathered in the National Park to perform the traditional cumbia dance as a form of protest and to peacefully express their demands.

“I march for the slaughter of my people and the environmental massacres,” said a poster carried by two young protesters. Another read: “Wanting a different country shouldn’t cost us our lives.”

In Cali, the epicenter of the protests and where the most people have lost their lives, the day went off smoothly, with roadblocks on the city’s major streets still in place.

On Thursday, the Ombudsman’s Office authorized 60 humanitarian corridors in 17 of the country’s 32 departments to allow food and medicine to pass through along with doctors and injured people. EFE


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