A march called by the Democratic Center, the party of Colombian President Iván Duque, took hundreds of people through the streets of Bogotá and other cities in the country on Sunday 30 to protest against roadblocks erected by participants in anti-government acts . .
The closure of the highways and the general strike called by the demonstrators against Duque hampered the supply of several municipalities. Supporters of the president also called for an end to violence during the protests, in an act which has been dubbed the “March of Silence.”
In the capital, there was an early clash between participants in the government march and supporters of the national strike, but the clash was controlled by the police.
The country, which just ended a month of social unrest, saw the acts begin as a revolt against a tax reform bill. The protests, however, escalated and began to include an agenda with several demands. Among other things, protesters are calling for more jobs, better access to health and education and the establishment of a basic minimum income during the pandemic.
They are also pushing to end the use of glyphosate, a herbicide used to destroy coca crops – the issue is controversial, as the chemical can cause cancer. In addition, the demonstrators are calling for a reform of the national police, which is controlled by the army.
Many acts committed so far have resulted in clashes with security forces, especially in Cali, the country’s third largest city. In total, according to the Ombudsman’s office, 59 people were killed in the clashes, including 13 only last Friday (28).
In the middle of this panorama, Duque announced his intention to use the military to help contain the acts.
José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division of the NGO Human Rights Watch, told Folha that “the repeated lack of respect for human rights in the repression of protests has the effect of fueling the fire of the protests. same “. “In other words, people are already leaving [às ruas] today more for disagreeing with this type of reacting state as well as for the initial directions of the process. “
For him, Duque “is wrong to give more demonstrations of the use of national security forces, such as the army, because they are a symbol of intolerance and there is no real desire to dialogue”.
Vivanco also criticizes the Colombian president’s claims that the violence was caused by organized groups of foreigners. The director of the NGO considers that the hypothesis cannot be ruled out, but it cannot be proved at this stage either. “To insist on all your speech sheets on this account of vandalism paid for by outside forces sends a very bad message to Colombians, the message that their flags, their demands, are not legitimate. And they are.”
Amid the increase in acts, Duque began negotiations with a committee made up of leaders from some of the sectors involved in the protests. The conversations, however, did not result in an agreement. In recent days, in the streets, one of the cries that have been heard is that “the strike committee does not represent us”.
“We must be clear that what we see in the street are young people who do not see themselves represented in politics or in these negotiations carried out on their behalf. This, in recent days, has also become a driving force behind general dissatisfaction “, explains political scientist Ariel Avila.” Colombian youth, who had already positioned themselves with their agenda of state reforms in 2019, have now returned to the streets with even more reprimands, because when we look at the figures of growing poverty, young people are also the most affected fringe, they are those who are unemployed and without prospects, “he added.
Poverty in Colombia has increased by 6 percentage points since the start of the pandemic, and it is now 42.5%. In the same trend, youth unemployment has also increased – among Colombians between the ages of 18 and 28, unemployment rose from 20.5% in 2020 to 23.9% in 2021. A survey released by the Invamer Institute this Sunday indicates that 89% of those questioned agree with the protests, but 95% disapprove of their being violent. Regarding the actions of Esmad, the Colombian police riot battalion, 55% say they disagree with the way they are acting, and 60% call for an end to the blockade of streets and roads.
Analyst Elizabeth Dickinson, of the International Crisis Group, believes that the dialogue “should include more actors and open the range of demands of young people, because they are the majority of those on the streets”. For Ávila, there is no desire to stop the actions. “I don’t think it will stop soon. I don’t see any discouragement or fatigue in those who take to the streets every day. And I just think these protests can be eased when there are concrete deliveries. from the government. “