By Ovidio Castro Medina
Bogotá, May 16 (EFE).- After 19 days in which tens of thousands of people have taken to Colombia’s streets to express their discontent, the National Strike Committee (CNP) spoke Sunday for the second time with the government and asked for guarantees to the right to protest safely and to begin negotiating a way out of the crisis.
In a meeting that began at 2 pm local time (19:00 GMT) and that lasted all afternoon, the CNP – made up of unions, workers’ centrals and social and community organizations – also confirmed a call for a new protest on Wednesday in rejection of police brutality and government policies.
“Today the organizations that are part of the National Strike Committee have presented a document that has two fundamental parts: one that refers to guarantees for the exercising of protests and another of guarantees for the negotiating table,” government spokesman and High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, said after the meeting.
The CNP also made it clear that the only point that it would deal with on Sunday is that of “guarantees and prerequisites to stop the… violence against those of us who have been protesting.”
The issue of police brutality is fundamental for the CNP as since the protests began on Apr. 28, at least 42 people, 41 civilians and a police officer, have lost their lives.
The leaders of the strike justify their position given “the magnitude and seriousness of the physical, sexual and emotional violence unleashed” against the protesters.
Organizations such as the United Nations and the European Union, as well as governments around the world have expressed concern about the violence and have asked the government to take measures to guarantee the safety of the protests.
Among the CNP’s demands is one for the government to withdraw the proposed health reform and for the strengthening of mass Covid-19 vaccination. They also ask for a basic income of at least a monthly legal minimum wage, defense of national production, subsidies for micro, small and medium-sized companies, and zero tuition for the poorest university students.
The government raises negotiation issues such as mass vaccination, safe reactivation of the economy, non-violence, protection of the most vulnerable, stabilization of public finances and asks that the protesters cease their roadblocks because they affect the battered economy of the country that has not been able to function at 100 percent due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
The economic losses in 15 days are estimated at more than 6.5 trillion pesos (about $1.7 billion), according to the government’s estimate.
On Sunday, demonstrations continued in different parts of the country and in Bogotá, which is where more people have come out to protest, members of the LGBT+ community shouted slogans against the police during a so-called “Colombia free of homophobia and transphobia” march. EFE