Conflicts & War

Thousands join nationwide protests against Colombian gov’t

Bogota, Oct 21 (efe-epa).- Another day of protests against the economic and social policy of the Colombian government began on Wednesday in the streets of the country’s main cities, where citizens came out en masse with music, dancing and signs that demanded the defense of peace and life.

The largest gathering was at the Bogota National Park, from where demonstrators marched to the central Plaza de Bolivar, where they were greeted by the “minga indigena,” a huge mobilization of those indigenous communities who came to the city on Sunday and on Wednesday will return to the southwestern part of the country where they live.

The indigenous peoples arrived in Bogota on Sunday from Cali, the main southwestern city, and on Monday the participatns staged a huge gathering in the Plaza de Bolivar to make their demands known to President Ivan Duque, with whom they were unable to meet.

The protest on Wednesday was convened by the National Strike Committee, made up of unions and social organizations, to express rejection of Duque’s economic and social policies as well as the violence in regions like Cauca, from where most of the indigenous peoples participating in the minga came.

Besides Bogota, the demonstrators are also congregating in the downtown areas of Medellin, Cali, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla.

Wednesday’s protest also saw the participation of teachers affiliated with the Fecode educators’ union, representatives of the minga and other groups that have demands against the Duque government.

In essence, the unions reject Duque’s policies saying that they run counter workers’ needs because they affect job stability by allowing contract work by the hour and also fail to recognize rights such as subsidies for education, food and recreational entities, among other things.

In addition, they are asking for a halt to violent actions, the murders of social leaders and the restriction of social protests, and they reject police brutality, which left 10 people dead in Bogota in September.

In like manner, the demonstrators are criticizing the measures taken by the government to deal with the coronavirus pandemic crisis, saying that they have worsened economic and social conditions for Colombian workers.

One of the largest groups in Bogota gathered along Highway 7, one of the capital’s most important roadways, where they were joined by people carrying “whipalas,” the banners and flags of indigenous peoples, and signs of unions such as the gigantic CGT and CUT unions.

Also joining the protests were “papayeras,” as the groups that perform assorted dances are known here, the members of which marked out rhythms during the demonstration with drums and wind insruments.

“We’re uniting today in protest over the systematic murders of our colleagues, 234 at this point,” the senator from the FARC party, Victoria Sandino, said while participating in the Bogota demonstration, referring to the crimes against the former FARC guerrillas who signed the peace accord with the government in November 2016 ending decades of armed conflict and insurgency.

The members of the minga were housed at the Sports Palace in western Bogota, where the City Hall had adapted the covered stadium so that they could set up tents and spend the night during their time in the capital.

There, the participants slept for three nights and on Wednesday, before boarding the buses which they had used during their stay in the capital, they undertook to clean up the site where they had stayed.

“After hours of clean-up work” the minga left the Sports Palace, the city’s government secretary, Luis Ernesto Gomez, said on the social networks.

He added that “They boarded the buses to return today to their reservations, first moving through the Plaza de Bolivar. I hope Colombia understands better this embattled people.”


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