Demonstrators back to the streets of Colombia on Independence Day to push for reforms — MercoPress


Demonstrators back to the streets of Colombia on Independence Day to push for reforms

Wednesday, July 21st 2021 – 09:00 UTC



“Roadblocks only assert the ambition of the agitators who want to benefit from chaos,” Duque said while opening the new legislature

Colombian demonstrators took once again Tuesday to the streets of the country’s biggest cities such as Bogotá, Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla, Cartagena and Manizales to step up their demands against the Government of Iván Duque during the Independence Day holiday.

The new rallies were to support 10 initiatives brought by the National Strike Committee (CNP) to the National Congress at the beginning of the new legislature.

Among the proposals were a basic income for ten million people with a minimum wage for seven months, zero enrollment fees for young university students at public institutions, support for the payroll of workers in small and medium-sized companies, a Police reform, guarantees to stage peaceful protests following international standards, a new youth policy, an improvement to the country’s health system, support for agricultural production and actions to curb gender violence.

Since April 28, Colombia has been hit by blockades, vandalism, police abuse, and civilians involved in shootings.

The Duque administration has vowed to protect the right to peaceful protest, but at the same time, it also announced no acts of violence would be acceptable. In fact, Duque repeated his speech against “chaos” Tuesday as thousands of Colombians returned to the streets after a 35-day pause.

In his speech Tuesday at the legislature’s opening ceremony, Duque warned that “in a country of anarchy, chaos and hatred only violence and pain thrive.”

In any case, the CNP Tuesday challenged the Executive on two levels, because they ignored the warnings about the risks of vandalism and violent actions on the part of criminal groups, and also the call not to go out to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The CNP has thus returned to the streets to measure how much was left of that shocking movement that gripped the country between April 28 and June 15 with the excuse of presenting to Congress the 10 bills which sum up their demands.

Rallies developed uneventfully until late in the afternoon, except in Medellín, where the infamous Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) showed its true colours against a group of protesters. In some cities, the protests were in the form of music concerts cultural encounters, or small roadblocks, while the Government deployed a 6,000-strong police force with some 2,700 reinforcements from the Army, everything right under the eyes of observers from several human rights organizations.

The Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, in addition, made a very early call to mayors and governors of the departments (provinces) to respect citizens’ rights during the mobilizations.

The initiatives presented to the legislature by the CNP were the result of a work of some 40 days with representatives and senators, scholars from some 15 universities and social, union and political leaders.

The Committee presented the projects as “an ambitious emergency social program, to be financed based on an agreement.”

The CNP expressed its hope that “the congressmen of all political parties will be willing to give priority to these issues, that they allow a broad and inclusive debate, that they do not dodge the process and above all that they listen, see and connect with a country that demands changes.”

But Duque did not move an iota from his original stance: “The blockades are not roadblocks; they are cuts to live. They do not enforce any rights; they only assert the ambition of the agitators who want to benefit from chaos,” he said.

He also supported a new tax reform put forward by his administration as well as a Comprehensive Transformation Project for the National Police.





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