Police fire tear gas & water cannon as mass anti-govt protests in Colombia’s capital turn violent (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
Sparked by general dissatisfaction with government policies, including a recent proposal to cut pensions, some 207,000 Colombians joined the massive demonstrations on Thursday, according to Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez.
COLOMBIA! ❤️Tens of thousands across Colombia have taken to the streets to protest the government of Ivan Duque. Colombia is the latest Andean country to have mass mobilizations against their government in recent months.#ParoNacional#Colombia#ColombiaProtestspic.twitter.com/KFTxPhgQ0p— LeftVoice (@left_voice) November 21, 2019
With protesters chanting anti-Duque slogans and carrying bright banners and national flags, the marches mostly took place without incident. However, as the event in Bogota came to a close, people described as “hooligans” by some witnesses initiated confrontations with police, prompting them to respond with tear gas, water cannon and billy clubs. Some of the clashes were captured on video.
▶️ Protests continued in Colombian capital Bogota, Thursday, Nov. 21, as students clashed with police. 👉 Students are demanding the government maintain minimum wages for young people and the universal right to a pension. https://t.co/MOUDJ75jpEpic.twitter.com/cW1XwzUm9i— The Voice of America (@VOANews) November 21, 2019
Riot police were also seen using tear gas on demonstrators outside of the Colombian legislature in Bogota’s Bolivar Square.
A demonstration in the city of Cali that drew over 20,000 protesters also ended in minor clashes near a local university, after which the city government declared a temporary curfew.
“More than 20,000 people have taken to the streets of Cali to support the [National Strike] peacefully,” Cali’s Mayor’s Office said in a tweet, but singled out “the few misfits who decided to [protest] violently.”
Más de 20 000 personas han salido a las calles de Cali a apoyar el #ParoNacional de forma pacífica, con respeto y en paz. Estamos trabajando para garantizar ese derecho fundamental, pese a los pocos desadaptados que decidieron hacerlo con violencia. pic.twitter.com/fO9v5xEtlg— Alcaldía de Cali (@AlcaldiaDeCali) November 21, 2019
Some observers online have suggested the violent protesters were undercover“infiltrators” sent by the government stir up trouble and trigger a police crackdown, though so far little evidence has been offered to support that claim.
A sizable police presence was seen in the streets of some cities in the lead-up to the strike, including armor-clad riot officers and helicopters.
THREAD: Police prepare as Colombia braces for its largest protests in years on Thursday. Labor unions, students and indigenous groups are leading a nationwide strike aimed at the deeply unpopular President Ivan Duque https://t.co/GfAiGMXh9Ppic.twitter.com/GL6lccUd2C— Bloomberg TicToc (@tictoc) November 21, 2019
The protesters – who include students, union workers and indigenous groups – also demanded that minimum wages be held at their current level, and voiced anger over the slow rollout of a 2016 peace deal with leftist guerrilla group FARC, which has been at war with the Colombian government since the 1960s.
Since taking office in August, President Duque’s approval rating has steadily declined to its current level of 26 percent, while a poll in June showed 81 percent disapproval from younger Colombians aged 18 to 24, indicating his faltering support.
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