Colombia Erupts in Mass Protest over Government’s Austerity Program
Nov. 21, 2019 (EIRNS)—Citizens in several Colombian cities took to the streets today in a general strike, called by a coalition of trade union federations, students and social organizations to protest President Ivan Duque’s plans to impose an austerity program. This will reportedly include pension “reform,” raising the retirement age, and lowering wages for young people below the minimum wage, among other things.
According to late reports, there was a massive turnout, especially of students, in the capital of Bogotá, as well as in Cali, Cartagena, Medellín and other cities. In Bogotá, masses of people blocked major roads, shutting down public transportation. There was considerable violence, requiring the intervention of police and military, who had been deployed beforehand nationwide in anticipation of the strike. As a result of violence in Cali, the local government imposed a 7:00 p.m. curfew. In Cartagena, all public transportation was shut down for the day.
The daily El Espectador reported today that these were the largest demonstrations in many years. Students are a key factor. Both public and private university students have been protesting for weeks, demanding more investment in education, and today complained that Duque reneged on an agreement he signed promising to increase the education budget. Protesters also want the government to do more to implement the “peace” agreement with the FARC (whose real purpose was to legitimize the FARC cocaine cartel, having little to do with “peace”), and to provide more protection for indigenous leaders who have been targetted for assassination.
Preemptively, last night Duque announced he had closed the country’s borders with its four neighbors—Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru.