After ten days of violent protests, Colombian President Iván Duque met with political opponents on Friday (7) to discuss solutions to the crisis in the country.
At the meeting, members of the Coalición de la Esperanza, a center-left political alliance for the 2022 elections, raised a series of demands to tackle poverty, unemployment and police violence in the country.
Duque said on his social media that the conversation was productive and represented a “great opportunity for dialogue,” but opposition participants said the president had to work hard to meet the demands.
“We started negotiations with President Ivan Duque as the opposition and left as the opposition,” said Jorge Robledo, senator from the Dignidade party.
The government must contain police violence, said Green Party Congresswoman Katherine Miranda. “The government has two sides. During the day it offers dialogue and conciliation, but at night it only shows repression,” she told Reuters news agency.
One of the main demands of the protesters is the disbandment of the dreaded Esmad riot squad, short for Esquadro Móvil Antidistúrbios, which Duke rejected. The tension in Colombia sparked protests from the UN, the European Union, the United States and human rights NGOs, which denounced the disproportionate use of force by the police to control demonstrations.
The government is due to meet on Monday (10) the national strike committee, made up of unions and other opposition groups.
The protests, which have left at least 26 dead and hundreds injured, began last week against a tax reform plan proposed by Duke, who, after pressure from the streets, returned and took the project off the agenda of Congress.
However, protesters’ demands now include a basic income and the withdrawal of a long-debated healthcare reform that opponents deem too vague to correct inequalities in the country.
Protesters took to the streets again on Friday in cities like Bogotá and Medellín. Speaking to reporters, the president urged protesters to remove roadblocks that are causing shortages of food and medicine, as well as rising prices.
Duke may not run for office next year, but the ongoing protests could hurt the chances of his party’s candidates.