Bogotá, May 10 (EFE).- Colombian trade unions and social organizations called for new protests Monday, after the National Strike Committee and President Iván Duque failed to reach an agreement after 13 consecutive days of demonstrations.
The protests persisted throughout the country as people called for dialog to find a way out of the quagmire, and after tensions rose in the city of Cali on Sunday amid clashes.
“The government on the two central issues that were raised about the guarantees of the protests and about the cessation of the excessive action of the public force against the people (…) did not say anything concrete,” Central Union of Workers (CUT) secretary general Diógenes Orjuela told EFE.
As a result, trade unionists, social organizations, teachers, and others grouped under the umbrella of the National Strike Committee, called for a new national protest for Wednesday.
Despite the fact that Duque withdrew the proposed tax reform, the main reason for the protests, the demonstrators demand the government offer them opportunities for work and education, that police brutality cease and that a health reform proposal is withdrawn, among other demands.
The president, after repeated calls to travel to protest epicenter Cali, made a lightning four-hour visit Sunday night to meet with local authorities, but he did not meet with protesters nor visit the neighborhoods most affected.
The visit came after 12 days of protests, with riots, lootings and police violence, and after Sunday when alleged armed civilians began firing at the indigenous march on the outskirts of the city, injuring eight of their guards.
Since the protests began on Apr. 28, at least 27 people have died, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ombudsman’s Office on Friday said that of those deaths, seven are “in verification” and nine have no relation to the protests.
However, the NGO Temblores and the Institute for Development and Peace Studies have documented 47 fatalities (35 in Cali), 1,876 cases of excessive use of force, 278 injured and 963 arbitrary arrests, as well as 12 cases of sexual violence.
The rejection of violence is the point on which the government and the National Strike Committee agree. However, in other matters there are gaping differences.
CUT head Francisco Maltés told journalists after the meeting that “there was no empathy from the government” for the causes of the protests nor “with the victims of the violence that has been exercised in a disproportionate way against protesters.”
The high commissioner for peace, Miguel Ceballos, coordinator of the national dialog, assured that “there is a consensus in the rejection of violence and in the zero tolerance of any conduct by the public force that goes against the Constitution and the law, but also a clear condemnation against any violation of the right that any citizen has to his physical and personal integrity.”
He described the meeting as “exploratory” and said that it was agreed to create a space for dialog with the mediation of the United Nations and the Church.
Meanwhile, authorities detained two National Police officers on Monday over the death of Santiago Murillo, a 19-year-old who was shot in the chest walking home during a demonstration in the city of Ibagué.
The international community, including Amnesty International, the Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau expressed their concern, especially over violence, and attacks against indigenous protesters. EFE