In Colombia, protest leaders say they will suspend anti-government marches
BOGOTA, Colombia – Leaders of protests in Colombia said on Tuesday they would stop organizing marches in the country’s largest cities after seven weeks of anti-government protests that have left at least 50 dead.
Members of the National Strike Committee – a group made up of unions and student organizations – told a press conference they would suspend weekly marches to prevent more protesters’ deaths at the hands police and also to slow the contagion of coronaviruses in Colombia, where deaths from the virus are at an all time high.
The leaders of the protest said that the Colombian government had not responded to most of their petitions, so they will change their strategy: now they will focus on meeting with civil society organizations to draft a draft. law that will be presented to the Colombian congress in July, following a great march against the nation’s capital.
“This does not mean that social mobilization will stop in Colombia,” said Francisco Maltes, president of the Central Union of Workers. “The mobilization will continue because the causes that led to it are still ignored. “
Protests erupted on April 28 against a proposal by President Ivan Duque to increase taxes in a bid to control budget deficits and pay for expenses related to the pandemic. The tax proposal was quickly withdrawn, but protests continued over a wide range of demands, as well as frustration with growing poverty and inequality.
The strike committee on Tuesday accused the government of undermining an effort to start negotiations on social and economic policies that include a basic income scheme for 10 million people, free university tuition for most students and the dismantling of a riot police team that was implicated in violence against protesters.
The government recently made its own proposals to reform the police, and Duque said students from low-income households will receive free college tuition until the end of this year, while legislation is pending. development to increase access to university education.
Colombia’s unemployment rate doubled during the pandemic, while GDP contracted by 7% in 2020 and extreme poverty increased by 50%.
The protests resulted in losses of $ 3 billion, according to the finance ministry, as roadblocks prevented factories from obtaining raw materials and halted exports of products like coffee and sugar cane.
Although the strike committee has spearheaded many protests, it does not represent youth groups or indigenous groups that have also led protests and formed barricades in towns like Cali and Bogota. These groups are currently in separate talks with municipal governments.
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