Four people were killed in Colombia on Friday when tens of thousands of protesters marked one month of demonstrations across the country, while talks between the government and the national strike committee stalled.
In Cali, which has become an epicenter of the protests nationwide, Mayor Jorge Ospina confirmed three of the deaths. Local media reported that the fourth death occurred on the road between Cali and the city of Candelaria.
Demonstrations elsewhere were mostly peaceful, although clashes between police and protesters were reported in some areas, such as the municipality of Madrid, near Bogota.
“There must be a dialogue between those calling for strikes, the national government and society as a whole. If there are no talks, the spiral of violence will continue and unfortunately more people could die,” Ospina said.
Two people in Cali were killed when an agent of the Attorney General’s investigation unit opened fire on civilians, before he was also killed, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a televised message. The officer was not on duty at the time, Barbosa said.
Violence has marked demonstrations over the past four weeks.
The government has so far confirmed 17 civilian deaths directly related to the protests, while human rights groups say dozens more civilians have been killed by security forces. Two police officers were also reported killed during the protests.
The protests it began last month after the right-wing Colombian president Ivan DucThe government introduced a tax reform that critics said would disproportionately harm the working and middle classes, already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid singing and music during protests in the Bogota capital, protesters told Reuters news agency that they would continue to march even after a month of demonstrations.
Since the withdrawal of tax reform earlier this month, protesters ’demands have expanded to include a basic income, opportunities for young people and an end to police violence.
“Until the government listens to us, we have to stay on the street,” said Alejandro Franco, 23. Near graduation, he told Reuters he was leaving for better education and health, among other reasons.
“If people don’t have peace, neither does the government,” he added.
Some said the long-running protests are putting financial pressure on them.
“I have to close my store every time there are protests,” said Laudice Ramirez, 62, south of the city. “I’m going bankrupt, but young people have no other choice but opportunities.”
Although the government and protest leaders reached a “pre-agreement” to end the demonstrations this week, the organizers of the strike said on Thursday that the government had not signed the agreement and accused it of stopping. se.
“We have already reached an agreement, the only thing missing is the signature of the president to start negotiations,” Francisco Maltes, president of the Central Workers’ Union (CUT), who accused the government of delaying the talks, said on Friday. conversations.
The government said it had not signed the deal because some protest leaders would not condemn roadblocks, calling the issue negotiable and adding that talks would resume on Sunday.
Colombia’s finance ministry estimated that the protests and roadblocks cost the country $ 2.688 billion, as the blockades caused food and other supplies shortages, increased prices and disrupted operations at the country’s main seaport. , as well as for hundreds of companies.