By Luis Jaime Acosta
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Thousands of workers and students demonstrated in Colombia on Thursday against the social and economic policies of President Ivan Duque, despite restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters marched peacefully through major cities across the country and tried to meet demands such as the use of face masks and maintaining social distancing.
“This is a government that neither discusses nor negotiates, which means that we have to keep the protests. The president is deaf, blind and mute in the face of other opinions,” said Diogenes Orjuela, president of the Central Union of Workers. (CUT) Reuters in a telephone interview.
Demonstrators’ demands include improving health coverage and education, establishing a basic income for the unemployed and those without a pension, as well as helping small businesses, the union leader said. .
“As long as the government maintains its attitude of no dialogue or negotiation, protests will continue across the country,” Orjuela said, announcing new marches for December and next year.
Duque’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Home Office declined to comment.
In September, the death of a man following his detention by police sparked a wave of protests in Bogota and the satellite town of Soacha, in which 13 people died.
The marches last year were mostly peaceful, but saw looting of shopping malls and attacks on public transport in the early days, which led to the government declaring a curfew in Bogota and Cali .
Young Dilan Cruz has died after being hit in the head by a projectile fired by police during a protest last November, turning him into a symbol of protests that continued into mid-December last year .
Thursday’s protests in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga were peaceful, organizers said.