The Colombian government negotiated Sunday, May 30 with some of the demonstrators who have shaken the country for more than a month, but without ending a crisis that worries the UN, after having killed at least 13 dead since Friday and led to the deployment of the army in the city of Cali.
The government of President Ivan Duque and some of the representatives of the demonstrators resumed their discussions in Bogota after almost a week of hiatus, but without succeeding in concealing their deep differences. At the same time, thousands of people dressed in white have expressed their exasperation at the relentless road blockages and their economic consequences.
These discussions took place between the government and a strike committee made up of unions, students and representatives of indigenous communities who reject its policies. Although this committee does not represent all the demonstrators, its dialogue with the government raises the hope of a settlement of this crisis which has shaken the country since April 28.
But the outcome still seems distant. The strike committee denounced on Sunday the “Complicit silence” of the government in the face of “Disproportionate” force from the police. The government replied that the only thing it is waiting for to sit down and work on an agreement is the “Lifting of roadblocks”.
” This morning [dimanche], thousands of Colombians who represent millions of them sent a clear message: no more violence, no more roadblocks, no more destruction ”, the government said in a statement.
According to the police, some 87 roadblocks have been listed across the country, many of which are on the outskirts of Cali, the country’s third largest city and epicenter of the protests, where the army has started to deploy.
White-clad protesters took to the streets in several cities across the country on Sunday to protest against road closures and blockages. In Bogota, Medellin and other areas protesters carried banners calling for the ” peace “ or “ more roadblocks “ and chanted prayers.
“We are marching peacefully today to demand an end to the strike and that we return to work. (…), all road closures and blockages affect the national economy and generate more poverty ”63-year-old lawyer and cattle breeder Bernardo Henao, told Agence France-Presse.
Cali, epicenter of protests
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sunday called for an independent investigation after the violent demonstrations in Cali.
The Colombian army, obeying the order of President Ivan Duque, deployed a thousand soldiers there on Saturday. The streets of this city of 2.2 million inhabitants were the scene of clashes between demonstrators, police and armed civilians on Friday, which left at least 13 dead in various incidents. At least eight people have died from gunfire, police said. An investigator from the Cali prosecutor’s office fired at the crowd, killing two civilians, before being lynched by protesters, according to the prosecution. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has reported 14 dead since Friday, and 98 others injured, including 54 by firearms.
“It is essential that everyone who might be involved [dans ces violences] causing injury or death, including officials, are promptly, effectively, independent, impartial and transparent investigated, and those responsible are held to account ”High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.
The violence comes exactly one month after the April 28 uprising against a quickly abandoned tax reform project led by right-wing President Ivan Duque, which aimed to increase VAT and broaden the income tax base. In a month of popular uprising, at least 59 dead, including two police officers, have been recorded in the country, according to an official count. Some 2,300 people were injured and 123 are missing. Human Rights Watch reports up to 63 deaths.
For a month, the scenario has almost always been the same: by day, the demonstrations are peaceful and creative, at night the rebellion turns into riots where fireworks and Molotov cocktails mix with live ammunition.
For half a century, the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) obscured a reality that has become glaring: according to the World Bank, Colombia ranks among the most unequal countries in terms of income. The pandemic put an end to the mobilization in 2020 and plunged the most vulnerable into poverty. Poverty has accelerated to reach 42.5% of the 50 million inhabitants.