The President of Colombia, Iván Duque, called for dialogue on Tuesday amid escalating protests and violence in the country and hours of a “national strike” called by unions and social organizations.
The president called for the creation of a national dialogue table with the aim of reaching solutions to the citizen discontent expressed in the national strike that filled the country with protests the last seven days in rejection of the tax reform promoted by the Government.
“We will install a space to listen to citizens and build solutions. Ideological differences should not mediate, but a deep patriotism. It is vital to count with all institutions, the parties, the private sector, the governors, the mayors, and the leaders of civil society, “said Duque.
The conversations They will start this Wednesday.
They will have the presence “of the Courts, the control entities, the Prosecutor’s Office, the presidents of the Senate and Chamber, and also representatives of civil society, governors, mayors, associations, the private sector and those who are in the Action Boards. Communal, “said the Colombian president.
The president assured that the objective of the dialogue space “is reject violence in all its forms, accelerate the National Mass Vaccination Plan, ensure the resources to guarantee the continuity of social programs and the protection of the most vulnerable and, of course, economic reactivation. “
What happens in Colombia?
Demonstrations in the streets of Colombia began last week, after a official project of tax reform which raised the VAT charge to 19%.
After the strong popular reaction, the President withdrew the initiative, although the protests did not wane.
A shop destroyed in the midst of clashes between protesters and police in Colombia. AFP photo
It is that, in addition to the tax reform, the protesters denounce episodes of police violence. Added to that is the coronavirus crisis.
Against this background, unions and social organizations called a “national strike” for this Wednesday.
This Tuesday, meanwhile, there were blockades on the roads of the departments of Cundinamarca (center), Meta (center), Quindío (center-west) and Valle del Cauca (southwest).
Demonstrations also spread in Bogotá and in Cali, third city in the country, capital of Valle del Cauca and epicenter of the marches.
Since the beginning of the protests, Colombia registers at least 19 dead in repressive circumstances and 87 people disappeared, in addition to some 800 wounded.
Civil society organizations, however, say that the number of deaths is even higher.
“Support” and “demand” to the Police
Protesters denounce acts of police brutality in Colombia. Reuters photo
Regarding the complaints of police violence, Duque replied that “if an action outside the Constitution is presented that affects the rights of the people,” he will not accept it “in any way.”
“As corresponds in the rule of law, we will promote all internal investigations and with the control bodies. But we must be clear: to those who work for the safety of Colombians, all the support and at the same time all the requirement “he added, referring to the response of the security forces to the protests in recent days.
He also referred to the aggressions suffered by the troops in the streets, he said.
“Nothing justifies that there are armed people who, protected by the legitimate desire of the citizens to hold civic marches, go out to shoot defenseless citizens and cruelly attack our policemen,” declared the president.
In the last hours, the international community denounced the disproportionate use of force by the Colombian Police.
“We’re deeply alarmed due to the events that occurred in the city of Cali (…) last night, when the police opened fire on protesters who were protesting against the tax reform, killing and wounding several people, “said the spokeswoman for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Students march in Bogotá, Colombia. Photo EFE
Marta Hurtado made “a call for calm, given the extremely tense situation, with soldiers and police deployed to monitor the protest.”
Meanwhile, the Joe Biden administration urged “the maximum moderation to the public forces to avoid further loss of life. “He added that Washington continues to support the government in” its efforts to address the current situation through political dialogue. “
The Ombudsman, Carlos Camargo, affirmed that a member of the entity and four other people were attacked by soldiers while they were assisting detainees in Cali.
“They were threatened by national police officers who repeatedly fired into the air and the ground, threw stun grenades, verbally abused them and demanded that they leave the place,” he said.
With information from DPA and EFE
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