‘Colombia in chaos’: Anti-govt mass protests hit 20 cities
Protesters marched in various locations in the Colombian capital, banging pots and pans in what is known as a ‘cacerolazo.’ Simultaneous demonstrations were held in 21 cities across the country.
The protesters decried recent government negotiations with Colombian rebel militant group FARC, pointing to a recent rise in terrorist attacks and general lack of security in Colombia.
“Colombia is in chaos. Agriculture is in chaos. They don’t want dialogue with our coffee producers, but they do with the guerrillas. This is really unjust,” Alicia Restrepo, one of the protest organizers told RT’s Spanish-language channel, Actualidad RT. The Colombian government’s struggle with FARC is the longest ongoing conflict in the Western hemisphere, spanning half a century.
Public rage also centered on new tax reforms being discussed in the country’s parliament that would threaten the educations of over 60,000 youths from low-income backgrounds who receive free schooling. Critics said the reforms will also have an adverse effect on Colombia’s agricultural industry.
“He [President Juan Manuel Santos] is making a mockery of democracy and betraying Colombia’s voters,” a protester told Actualidad RT, adding that President Santos’ policy contradicted promises mad in his presidential campaign.
The Colombian workers’ unions that organized the marches used social media sites to promote and coordinate protests across the country.
Colombia has seen a wave of social unrest in recent months, with people increasingly disgruntled at the country’s ruling government.
Previously, thousands of people took to the streets in October for an entire week of protests, drawing attention to growing social inequalities in Colombia and decrying government corruption. The demonstrators also called for peaceful negotiations with FARC.
The so-called ‘Week of Indignation’ was punctuated by skirmishes with police officers, who dispersed rioters with tear gas and stun grenades, arresting over 70 people.
The Colombian government is set to renew talks with FARC rebels in the Cuban capital Havana on Friday. Both sides have so far failed to reach a palpable accord regarding a conflict that has killed at least 600,000 people since it began 50 years ago.