Bogotá, May 10 (EFE).- Colombia’s president on Sunday called for “the largest deployment” of public security forces to Cali, the epicenter of protests since Apr. 28, while a former leader called for the “military occupation” of the city.
“Based on constitutional powers, I instructed the @mindefensa [defense ministry], @MinInterior [interior ministry] and the government team in Cali to, with the support of local authorities, guarantee the largest deployment of #FuerzaPública [public forces] to provide peace of mind to citizens,” Duque said in a message on Twitter.
Minutes later, former leader Álvaro Uribe, in a message on his social networks, said “we hope for the immediate military occupation of Cali. We trust in the effective and sustained action of our soldiers within the framework of the constitution and human rights to protect the citizens of Cali.”
These statements come after 12 days of protests, which began in rejection against the now-withdrawn government tax reform proposal, and which resonate strongly in Cali, the population of which is plagued by unemployment, poverty and serious security problems.
On Sunday, armed men in high-end vehicles opened fire on an indigenous protest convoy as it entered Cali, wounding 10 members of its guard.
At about 2.20 pm (07:20 GMT), a mob “affiliated with Uribe and the police attacked the demonstrators,” the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca said.
The indigenous population has flooded Cali to join the protests, and their guards patrol the neighborhoods to prevent public disorder and to mediate clashes with the police.
The president also reiterated his message delivered two hours after the incident to ask the indigenous people to return home “to avoid confrontations.” He also asked local authorities to impose movement restrictions.
Cali is where the most violent events have taken place, with episodes of police brutality against protesters that have left 35 dead, according to social organizations.
Although the demonstrations started in opposition to the withdrawn tax reform proposal, they continue against health reforms, police brutality and insecurity.
Dance, music and artistic performances filled the streets elsewhere with trade unions and students joined by victims of the conflict, and indigenous and LGBT+ communities seeking redress for their struggles.
Shouting “No more deaths” the LGBT+ collective performed in Bogotá, their bodies stained with ‘blood,’ to depict the more than 10 transgender women that have been killed in the country so far this year.
“You cannot live here, it is very violent. The government, the police, machismo, religion, the Church, morality have us tied by the neck and that is why we are protesting. Because we are not going to let them continue to kill us,” Demonia Tamara, from trans-queer collective House of Tupamaras, told EFE.
The Bogotá Philharmonic Orchestra inaugurated the day of protests in the central Plaza de Bolívar to honor those who have died during the demonstrations and to reject violence, and bells sounded for each of the victims.
Relatives of the victims of “false positives,” as the executions of innocent youths at the hands of the army are known, also came out to “cry for the life and rights” of their children.
Duque will meet at midday Monday with the National Unemployment Committee, made up of unions and social organizations that called the initial protests. Delegations from the UN and the Episcopal Conference are also invited. EFE