Bogota, May 15 (EFE).- Protest rallies in Colombia demanding socio-political reforms and an end to police brutality continued for the 18th day Saturday, a day before negotiations are set to start between the government and the National Strike Committee, a group representing many of the demonstrators.
Saturday passed without any major incident despite all eyes being on Jamundi, situated in the agro-industrial department of Valle de Cauca, where overnight a mob had burned down the municipal headquarters.
The city of Popayan, capital of the nearby Cauca department, also witnessed overnight clashes between protesters and security forces, resulting in the death of a young man while 40 others were injured.
The protesters in Popayan set fire to a regional prosecutors’ office and a forensic medicine facility.
Massive protests against the government of President Ivan Duque broke out on Apr. 28 and have continued unbated since then, with 42 people – 41 civilians and a police officer – being killed in clashes and police repression against protesters.
Defense Minister Diego Molano alleged on Saturday that dissident factions of the now disbanded insurgent group FARC were behind the attacks and destruction at the public prosecutors’ offices in Popayan.
Molano, who chaired a meeting to discuss the security situation in the city, said that 51 firearms – including 15 rifles kept in the armory – had been looted from the government premises, while over a dozen vehicles and computer equipment were destroyed in the fire.
The miscreants also stole cocaine and marijuana seized in anti-narcotics operation.
Meanwhile peaceful protests continued on Saturday in different parts of the country, with the largest demonstration taking place in capital Bogota, where hundreds of people gathered at the Los Heroes monument, dedicated to the memory of soldiers who took part in the Bolivarian wars of independence.
The protesters carried placards with slogans such as “living in the richest land and seeing power grabbed by the poorest minds” “no more repression against protests” and “we want education without loans.”
Protests featuring artists’ performances and the traditional banging of pots and pans took place in cities such as Cucuta, Pasto and Bucaramanga, with the latter also witnessing a small demonstration condemning stone pelting against a police facility.
In Medellin, young protesters first gathered in parks and then carried out cultural and musical activities as part of a peaceful protest.
Protest events also took place on a road connecting Pereira – capital of the Risaralda department – and neighboring Dosquebradas, where young student Lucas Villa was shot eight times on May 5 while participating in a peaceful protest.
In other cities such as Cali – capital of Valle del Cauca and the city worst-affected by the unrest – and Barranquilla, the day passed peacefully without any incident. EFE