With cries of ‘resistance,’ Colombians spurred on by protest ‘win’
By Klarem Valoyes Gutierrez
Bogotá, May 19 (EFE).- Thousands of Colombians chanted “Resistance, resistance!” in the central Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá as Congress threw out the health reform proposal over which thousands had taken to the streets on Wednesday, in the fourth national strike.
The streets of the main cities of Colombia were filled again after 22 days of demonstrations in which social pressure led the government of President Iván Duque to discard its tax reform proposal, the trigger for the massive marches since Apr. 28.
The demonstration was joined for the first time by Senator Gustavo Petro, leader of the opposition for the left-wing movement Colombia Humana, who accompanied the protesters in Bogotá asking for consensus in the negotiations between the government and the National Strike Committee that continue without results.
“They have to, at their points of resistance, elect delegates, organize coordinators by city and achieve national negotiation capacity quickly to achieve a change in social policy,” Petro, a former presidential candidate, told EFE.
The first gatherings began early in various meeting points in the capital, especially in the National Park, from where thousands of citizens started with chanting, music and dances and walked to the Plaza de Bolívar, the seat of Colombian political power.
There they celebrated that Congress discarded, with 27 votes in favor and five against, the health reform project that, once the tax reform was withdrawn, had become one of the main fuels of the demonstrations, along with an end to police brutality.
Health Minister Fernando Ruiz, had expressed his support for the initiative and came to describe the project as “totally positive and beneficial” for the country to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic “with a fairer health system.”
Ruiz defended that the reform “in no way” sought more privatizations, as the opponents of the project argued.
Presidential candidate Juan Fernando Cristo said “as anticipated, Congress buried the disastrous health reform,” considering it a “new triumph of citizen mobilization.”
Social discontent has continued uninterrupted for three weeks, with an extensive list of demands such as the cessation of police violence, which according to the NGO Temblores is responsible for 43 deaths that occurred during the marches, and greater opportunities for youth.
“The people are going to win,” thousands shouted Wednesday in the Plaza de Bolívar while waving the country’s flags.
Meanwhile, ministers, counselors, department directors and government institutes traveled to various cities for dialog with local leaders and protest organizers.
However, the meetings with the National Strike Committee remain unsuccessful as the government has conditioned the negotiation on the unblocking of the roads that have caused food and medicine shortages in some regions, while the spokesmen of the demonstrations demand measures against police brutality.
The Committee insisted Wednesday that “social problems are addressed through dialog and negotiations, with identification and prioritization of solutions, with the public presentation of arguments and not with the use of force (of the state).” EFE