Colombians took to the streets on Thursday to express their strong rejection of the economic and social policy of President Iván Duque, a protest without antecedents in the country's recent history.
The day began with peaceful demonstrations that crossed the main streets and avenues of Bogotá and other cities and municipalities of the country and lasted well into the night with a sudden cacerolazo that rumbled in most of the neighborhoods of Bogotá and ended up infecting other cities .
The protests were not exempt from acts of vandalism mainly in Bogotá, Cali and some intermediate cities, which forced local authorities to declare a curfew in some of them to try to preserve order.
From an early age, citizens gathered in different parts of cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla to carry out mass mobilizations against the "package" of economic measures that, according to the unions, the Duque Government wants to propose to Congress to modify the labor and retirement regime to the detriment of workers.
In Bogotá, tens of thousands of students, students, workers, indigenous and black groups filled the Plaza de Bolívar, the center of political and judicial power in Colombia, where they arrived in the middle of the excitement with messages like "The government does not invest in education for fear of emancipation "or" More salaries, less taxes. "
The protest in Medellín, which was mostly peaceful despite the fact that there were reports of clashes between hooded men and policemen, had the Parque de las Luces as a meeting point.
In that demonstration a group of ex-combatants of the FARC participated in the peace agreement, which next Sunday turns three years old.
One of them was Rodrigo Londoño, president of the Common Revolutionary Alternative Force (FARC) party, arising from the demobilization of the former guerrilla, who participated surrounded by bodyguards.
"We are cornering those who want us to continue at war … I hope they listen to the people, I hope they reason and listen to the people's voice, the people are asking for peace and are asking for reconciliation," Londoño told reporters , known in his guerrilla era as "Timochenko".
In Barranquilla, thousands of people attended the meeting and met on the Paseo Bolívar, where they joined their voices to demand more investment in education from the Government despite the inclement heat of that Colombian Caribbean city.
Throughout the day there were riots in different parts, but in the late afternoon, when the crowds dispersed, agitators entered into action that clashed with stones at the Police, which responded with tear gas, and vandals who took advantage of the disorder to plunder Public offices and shops.
The main focus of violence was in Cali, the third city in Colombia, where Mayor Maurice Armitage decreed a curfew throughout the night to contain the looting of commercial establishments.
The curfew was also implemented in the municipalities of Candelaria and Jamundí, near Cali, due to looting, as in Facatativá, a town that is located less than 50 kilometers from Bogotá.
Despite this measure, in some neighborhoods in the southern area of Cali, capital of the department of Valle del Cauca, vandals entered apartment groups to steal, forcing their inhabitants to arm themselves with sticks and other objects to defend their properties.
In the Colombian capital, hooded vandals gathered in the Plaza de Bolívar attacked the policemen who guarded the Capitol, the Palace of Justice and the Liévano Palace, headquarters of the City Hall.
Police and hooded men fought a pitched battle for about an hour in the area at dusk until the public force managed to disperse the agitators.
A similar disorder occurred in the populated Suba sector where criminals destroyed the main bus station in the neighborhood as well as a public service office, and in addition to looting shops set fire to a police motorcycle.
In this regard, Duque said tonight in an address to the country that what happened after the demonstrations are "pure vandalism and do not obey an expression of popular will, nor will they be legitimized by the right to protest."
"I have given very precise instructions for the Public Force to guarantee security, which is being affected by vandals and criminals who want to terrorize our citizens," he said.
THE IMPACT OF THE CACEROLAZO
When the day seemed to have ended a sudden cacerolazo in residential neighborhoods of Bogotá and other cities in the country prolonged protests against Duque.
The movement began in the traditional neighborhood of Chapinero and was spread like wildfire by other sectors of the city where this form of demonstration lasted for hours under the cry of "resistance, resistance."
The patting of the pans reached the north of the capital, where a crowd made itself felt in front of the condominium where the president has his private residence.
The cacerolazo, symbol of the protests in other Latin American countries, was until today something almost unusual in Colombia where the only antecedent of this popular demonstration goes back to the mid-1990s against then President Ernesto Samper for the money filtration scandal of drug trafficking in the electoral campaign that brought him to power.
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