Bogotá/Medellín, May 30 (EFE).- Thousands of people marched through several cities of Colombia on Sunday to demonstrate against the protests that have been taking place in the country since Apr. 28 and the roadblocks and violence in which they have resulted.
“We do not support the vandalism or the national strike, it does not represent us,” said Claudia, a financial advisor who took part in the march in Medellín, where thousands of people dressed in white and carrying Colombian flags marched behind a banner that read “The blockade is a crime!”
Thus, Colombia’s second largest city, where the protests have caused little disruption, showed its support to the authorities as well as the security forces, which have drawn strong criticism from within the country and international bodies for excessive use of force against protesters.
“We cannot let social protest be misleading and become a means to impose on society a political agenda that was defeated at the polls,” said Luis Guillermo Velez, a university professor, as vehicles passed by and honked in support.
Thousands of people wearing white shirts also marched through the 7th street in Bogotá, holding national flags and chanting :”Colombia is built, not destroyed.”
One of the demonstrators said she would like “a Colombia “free from drug traffickers, free from (the guerrillas of) the FARC and free from the left.”
Another gave flowers to police officials despite countless allegations against them in recent weeks of abuses against protesters that have not only resulted in deaths, but also eye injuries and sexual assaults, according to social organizations.
“I am not against protesting, but a healthy protest, without vandalism,” said the retiree Maria Eugenia, who declared “solidarity” with the people who have been taking to the streets since Apr. 28 “because this country must move forward” but without vandalism.
“I recognize that (those of) my generation went out and got jobs, and for this generation it is very difficult,” she added.
The age difference was noticeable between Friday’s demonstrators and those of previous days, when thousands of young people have taken to the streets fed up with the lack of jobs and opportunities and the widening inequality gap.
“Many of these young people don’t work, they don’t want their country, they prefer a country with subsidies, a country that is gifted (to them). There is a group called “nini” that neither works nor studies and they have taken it as a challenge to destroy and destabilize,” said Alexandra, another protester.
In the poor neighborhoods of Siloé or the famous Puerto Resistencia in Cali, the epicenter of the protests, and Bogotá’s Portal de las Américas, many of those young people to whom Alexandra refers have adopted another “ni” and say that they neither study nor work because they have no opportunities but that they are not afraid either.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sunday expressed concern after receiving reports that 14 people died and 98 were injured in Cali on Friday.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called the events especially concerning given the “progress that had been made to resolve, through dialogue, the social unrest that erupted a month ago following the start of a nation-wide strike against several social and economic policies of the Government”.
“It is essential that all those who are reportedly involved in causing injury or death, including State officials, are subject to prompt, effective, independent, impartial, and transparent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable”, she added.
The police acknowledged on Saturday that there were civilians who “used firearms indiscriminately against other people,” and said they would investigate officials who were present there and “ignored their duty to prevent these events from occurring and to arrest these people.” EFE