At least three people died on Friday (28) in Cali, Colombia, during protests that marked the month in which the wave of anti-government protests began, which were severely suppressed by security forces.
According to the mayor of Cali, Jorge Iván Ospina, the three deaths occurred in a riot formed around a barricade of demonstrators. The victims total 46 other deaths recorded since the start of the protests, in addition to more than 2,000 injured and 123 missing.
Only 17 deaths are directly linked to the protests, according to the Colombian prosecution, but human rights groups say the official figure is underestimated and dozens of other civilians have been killed by police.
Videos posted on social media show a man lying in a pool of blood and another nearby with a gun, harassed by protesters. Next, the footage shows the alleged assailant also on the ground, apparently having been lynched.
“The fight brought this mad situation of death and pain. We cannot allow these circumstances to continue to occur in Cali. We must not fall into the temptation of violence and death, ”Ospina said in a message broadcast on the networks.
Thousands of people have taken to the streets in several cities across the country as negotiations between President Iván Duque’s government and the national strike committee, which includes labor movements and student groups, stagnate.
This week, Colombian authorities and protest leaders said they had reached a “pre-agreement” to end the protest period, but the government ended up backing down on Thursday (27) as part of the Strike leaders refuse to condemn the roadblocks – a demand the government considers non-negotiable. The committee, in turn, accuses Duque and the authorities of obstructing negotiations, which are due to resume next Sunday (30).
Initially, the acts were against the tax reform proposed by the president. Although he withdrew the bill, the violent crackdown on protests continued to fuel discontent. Since then, acts have multiplied, without a defined agenda or direction, but with demands that demand a more just country and a more united State guaranteeing life and security.
Amidst music and slogans during protests in Bogotá, participants told Reuters news agency they were ready to continue with the actions until demands were met.
“We have to stay on the streets until the government listens to us,” said Alejandro Franco, 23, a student about to complete his college education who said he was walking for more education and health. “If the people don’t have peace, neither can the government.”
The month of protests also put major Colombian cities under financial pressure. “I have to close my store whenever there are protests,” said shopkeeper Laudice Ramirez, 62, in southern Bogotá. “I am going to go bankrupt, but young people have no other choice of opportunities.”
The Colombian Ministry of Finance estimates that the protests and roadblocks cost the country 2.68 billion US dollars (14 billion reais). The road barriers, according to the file, have led to shortages of food and other supplies, a general increase in prices and the disruption of operations at the country’s main seaport.
In response to popular pressure, the Duke government has already suffered two losses at the top. The first was the chief financial officer, Alberto Carrasquilla, who resigned over criticism of the proposal to raise taxes on the middle class. A few days later, it was the turn of Foreign Minister Claudia Blum.
On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement expressing “concern and condolences” for the deaths during the protests and reiterating the “unquestionable right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully”.
Earlier this week, the White House called on the Colombian government to step up efforts to locate the missing amid the protests, honoring its commitment to investigate allegations of abuse and episodes of police violence.