By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - Protests resumed across Colombia on Tuesday, with three police officers and one demonstrator injured and 13 buses and six bus stations vandalized, said authorities.
Labor unions, students, teachers, indigenous groups and feminist organizations first started striking in November, channeling a wave of discontent over a lack of educational opportunities, the slow implementation of a 2016 peace deal between the government and the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the killings of civic leaders and a rooted inequality in Colombian society. Protesters stood by the same demands in the latest demonstrations.
Protester Luis Ramirez, a professor at the National University of Colombia, told Anadolu that he has plenty of reasons to be in the streets.
“After 50 years of war, we now can think of inequity, corruption scandals that have eroded our faith in the political class and the murder of social leaders,” he said.
According to Indepaz, an NGO that carries out long-term projects in the pursuit of peace in Colombia, more than 20 social leaders have been killed during the first days of the year.
Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez urged protesters to hold peaceful rallies to avoid intervention by anti-riot police. But the protests turned violent when police clashed with demonstrators who blocked roads.
Uber drivers, who will be out of work after the Superintendency of Industry and Trade earlier this month ordered the U.S.-based ride-hailing company to shut down its operations in the country as of Feb. 1, also joined the protests.
Fabian Gomez, who has been an Uber driver for three years, said more than a thousand drivers came to the marches.
“They took away my source of income and an alternative job that was giving me stability,” Gomez said.
Although President Ivan Duque started a national dialogue with different groups, the National Strike Committee insisted on organizing new rallies to pressure the government into complying with their demands, including implementing the peace deal and the dissolution of the riot police force after young demonstrator Dilan Cruz died when he was hit by a shot fired by riot police, triggering outrage across the country.
On Tuesday morning, Duque said he rejected any kind of violence towards citizens and members of the public forces.
The government has invited demonstrators to join a national dialogue to discuss their needs, but there is skepticism among organizers about its willingness to meet their demands.