BOGOTA – Downpours held down participation in protests on Thursday against the economic and social policies of right-wing President Ivan Duque and against violence by police and paramilitaries directed at activists in various parts of Colombia.
Though thousands of people took to the streets of Bogota, turnout did not match the scale of previous marches and the demonstrations fizzled out shortly after mid-day as areas of the capital experienced flooding.
Colombia is two days away from the first anniversary of the start of mobilizations in opposition to the Duque administration.
The main event in Bogota took place in Bolivar Square, where members of the CUT labor federation were joined by representatives of a broad range of disaffected groups, including former FARC guerrillas demanding an end to the targeted killings that have claimed the lives of 241 ex-rebels since they laid down their arms.
Smaller protests unfolded in Colombia’s other main cities, including Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga.
Leaders of the National Strike Committee, representing a coalition of unions and grassroots organizations, demand that the government open negotiations on the grievances raised at the start of the movement in November 2019.
Unions say that Duque’s economic policies are anti-worker, allowing firms to hire people on a short-term, temporary basis without paying benefits.
Police brutality is another complaint, especially in greater Bogota, where 13 people perished in September during protests that followed the deaths of civilians at the hands of cops.
The government’s response to COVID-19 is also unpopular with workers, especially those on the margins of the Colombian economy.
Along the same lines, medical professionals joined Thursday’s demonstrations in Bogota to denounce a bill now under consideration in Congress that would further privatize health care.
“The national government and the Congress of the Republic want to approve a bill the deepen the business model of health, Law 100, which was sinking and failed to confront the pandemic,” Colombian Medical Federation vice president Carolina Corcho said.
Enacted in 1993, Law 100 created a comprehensive social security system while effectively privatizing the delivery of health care.
The health workers in Bolivar Square carried cardboard coffins on Thursday emblazoned with slogans such as “No more hospital closures.”
Colombia, with 1.23 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, has lost 34,761 lives to the illness.