Conflicts & War

Colombians mark their independence with peaceful protests

Bogota, Jul 20 (EFE).- Thousands took to the streets of this capital and other Colombian cities Tuesday to mark the Andean nation’s independence day with peaceful protests meant to push the right-wing government to show greater concern for social justice.

Besides demands for action to reduce poverty and inequality, signs and banners displayed at demonstrations also called for an end to police violence against protesters.

Human rights activists in Colombia say that at least 60 people died during a month of protests that began in late April, including 43 people killed by the security forces.

Bogota witnessed more than a score of marches, rallies and sit-ins, all of which went off without incident amid a significant police presence.

“Thousands of people are demonstrating today in a peaceful manner,” the capital’s leftist mayor, Claudia Lopez, said in a statement.

“All of the events that began around 9:00 am were absolutely peaceful, we reached midday with complete tranquility and we want to end the day with complete tranquility,” she said.

Bogota’s central Bolivar Plaza – a hub of protests in April and May – was empty Tuesday.

Officials made the square off-limits as a security measure for Tuesday’s ceremonial opening of the congressional session by President Ivan Duque.

The mobilizations had a festive air, accompanied by dancing and other cultural activities.

While Latin Grammy-winning rockers Aterciopelados performed at one of the marches in Bogota, the largest rally in Medellin, Colombia’s second city, featured young veterans of the April protests serenading police: “the bullets you fired will return.”

People also turned out for demonstrations in Cali, the country’s third-most-populous city and the epicenter of the April 28 movement.

The independence day protests were convened by the National Strike Committee (CNP), which published 10 draft pieces of legislation embodying proposals made by activists during talks with the Duque government that ended more than a month ago without agreement.

“What millions of Colombians have demanded in the streets is a radical change in the focus and extend of social policies,” the CNP said in announcing the bills it plans to present to Congress this week.

Among other goals, the proposed legislation aims to improve the public health system, make university education free, ensure food security and help small businesses recover from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the bills would guarantee the 7.5 million poorest households in Colombia a minimum income equivalent to the minimum wage for a year. EFE


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