Colombia protests

Duque orders deployment of security forces


Colombia’s President Ivan Duque ordered on Monday (May 17) a full deployment of security forces to unblock the streets as antigovernment protests in the country entered the 20th day.

Duque said he had ordered “the increase of all operational capacity of our public security forces on the ground to – together with mayors and governors – unblock the roads of our country with strict adherence to human rights.”

The blockades, many erected by local demonstrators or truckers, have caused shortages of food and gasoline across the country with the government saying that road closures had halted the transport of 700,000 tonnes of food.

Vandalism and the blockades have cost the economy about $1.6 billion, according to officials.
The protests, originally called in late April against a controversial tax reform that has since been withdrawn, have expanded to other issues, such as a basic income, a planned health care reform, an end to police violence and opportunities for young people. Trade unions warned the tax reform would lead to at least 1.5 million workers having to pay new taxes.

The economy minister and foreign minister have both resigned as a result of the protests.

Officials say at least 42 people have died and 168 people have been reported missing since protests began. International human rights organizations and countries have denounced abuses by Colombian police and security forces against protesters.

Since last month, Colombia’s Central Union of Workers (CUT) has announced a mass demonstration on Wednesday.

“We call for next Wednesday, May 19, a major peaceful manifestation; everyone, go out into the streets, with our flag and the saucepan, in strict compliance with biosafety regulations,” CUT said on Twitter on Sunday.

Government representatives were meeting late on Monday (May 17) with representatives from the national strike committee – made up of unions, student groups and others – to agree to terms for a negotiation the government hopes will curb marches.

The Latin American country’s fiscal deficit more than tripled from 2019 to 2020 and its GDP dropped 6.8% in 2020.

With reporting by Telesur and Reuters