Labor & Workforce

Protests, social chaos in Colombia spark political turmoil in Cali

Cali, Colombia, May 18 (EFE).- Colombia’s protest epicenter of Cali was plunged into political upheaval on Tuesday when Mayor Jorge Iván Ospina asked his entire cabinet to resign.

“These are moments that demand real transformations, expansion of capacities and the restoration of confidence,” the mayor said on his Twitter account ahead of a new protest convened for Wednesday.

Ospina added that “the biggest challenge” is to give “a national solution to demands with guarantees.”

Protesters, who have been on the streets since Apr. 28, have been demanding not only the withdrawal of the tax reform proposed by the government of President Ivan Duque, but also the resignation of Ospina, who was elected in 2019 with just under 300,000 votes.

Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca, has been the city worst-affected by the unrest.

The mayor has been in the eye of the storm for his poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the holding of an ostentatious virtual fair that brought together international salsa dancers and artists and was broadcast, unsuccessfully, on social media.

Moreover, a Christmas lighting display in which the district administration had invested more than 10 billion pesos (just over $2.73 million) could not be seen due to curfews imposed to prevent crowds at a time when shopkeepers and restaurant owners were asking for help to avoid losing their business on account of the economic crisis.

Felipe Garcés, who is spearheading an open forum in “La Loma de la Dignidad,” a focus site for blockades and peaceful rallies in the west of the city, said that a cabinet reshuffle was not the solution to the crisis facing the city.

“The mayor’s office is very discredited, there is a lack of dialog, representativeness. I think the resignation should be the mayor’s because he didn’t handle this situation appropriately,” he said.

Three weeks of historic protests in Cali have led to losses of 2.1 trillion pesos, especially in the trade, agricultural and freight sectors, according to the Chamber of Commerce, an organization that brings together small-, medium- and large-business owners.

The organization’s spokespersons told EFE that only once the blockades end will it be possible to know how long the city’s recovery will take, although according to estimates, in 20 days of protests, the economy of the city known as the salsa capital of the world has “regressed ten years.” EFE


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