Bogota: Hundreds of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of the capital Bogota amid a general strike to protest the policies of President Ivan Duque’s right-wing government.
There were reports of clashes and arrests as trade unions, students, opposition parties and the South American country’s indigenous organisations challenged the full gamut of Duque’s economic, social and security policies.At night, a thunderous chorus of pot-banging, unusual in Colombia, took place in the cities of Cali and Medellin, and lasted for hours in Bogota.
“Colombia won on this historic day of citizen mobilisation,” a statement by organisers from the National Strike Committee said, as they requested an “immediate” meeting with Duque to discuss the protesters’ array of complaints.
“We call on all citizens to be ready to take further action in the street if the national government continues to neglect our demands,” they added.
Later in the day Duque announced that he had heard the protesters’ demands, but did not respond to their request for direct dialogue.
“Today, Colombians spoke. We hear them. Social dialogue has been a main principle of this government and we need to deepen it with all sectors of society,” he said. The protests come amid social upheaval across South America, as a wave of unrest over the past two months has battered governments in Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador. The popularity of Duque’s right-wing government — a key US ally — has been on the wane since his election 18 months ago, as it deals with hosting 1.4 million refugees from neighboring Venezuela’s economic meltdown as well as the complex fallout of a 2016 peace deal with Farc rebels and rampant drug trafficking.
Troops were deployed in the capital and other cities to protect “strategic facilities,” authorities said.
The UNHCR voiced concern over the deployment.