Protesters take to the streets for a fourth week demanding government action on poverty, police violence and other issues.
Anti-government protests have spread to its fourth week in Colombia, as student groups, unions and others took to the streets on Tuesday to demand social change amid continued talks between the government and the leaders of the strike.
Some 8,000 people attended the protests in the capital, Bogota, the mayor said.
“We are accompanying our young people, our children, our grandchildren, who still lack opportunities despite having fought for so long,” lawyer Roberto Hermida, 68, told Reuters news agency.
Hermida said she wanted to provide more educational opportunities and better health care.
The protests it began last month after the government of right-wing Colombian President Ivan Duque introduced a tax reform that critics say would disproportionately harm the working and middle classes, already affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duke withdrew the proposal, but demonstrations have continued to be protesters expanded its list of demands to include the withdrawal of a health care reform proposal, an end to widespread violence in the country, and steps to address economic inequality.
The protests have been marked by violence, but the exact number of deaths is still unclear. The Attorney General’s Office has confirmed 15 deaths related to the protests, while a human rights group claims the figure is more than 40.
Duke has blamed the armed groups for most of the violence, but for the violence United Nations and several rights groups have condemned Colombian police for “opening fire” on protesters.
On Wednesday, former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Juan Manuel Santos urged Duque to take responsibility for the abuses committed by the police.
“We need more gestures, we need more empathy and more humility and for the state to recognize,‘ Look, we committed abuses, ’Santos told W Radio.
The national strike committee, made up of large unions, student groups and others, has held several discussions with government representatives on the protesters ’demands, but the two sides are not yet in formal talks.
They are expected to meet with the government again Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Dickinson, senior Colombian analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the rallies showed “deep social and economic inequality, frustration with police brutality, widespread government distrust.”
Through #Colombia another day of mass mobilization is underway today #ParoNacionalColombia reflecting deep social and economic inequality, frustration with police brutality, widespread government distrust
Here are some of the trends that emerge as we enter the 21st day of protests 🧵 pic.twitter.com/DjAa1lAX5k
– Elizabeth Dickinson (@dickinsonbeth) May 19, 2021
The protesters’ demands fall into two categories, according to Dickinson on Twitter: social justice and security, and while both issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, they are historic grievances.
The pandemic, which has killed more than 82,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, has also exacerbated long-standing economic inequalities.
“Protests are everywhere. The demonstrations reflect a deep national crisis that transcends geography. Although complaints vary by region, the feeling of exasperation and frustration is shared, ”Dickinson wrote.
“The crisis is critical, deep and requires gravitations that we have not yet seen,” he said.