Thousands of workers in Colombia take part in May Day marches

Thousands of workers in Colombia take part in May Day marches

Workers take to the streets in support of Gustavo Petro’s leftist government

By Laura Gamba

BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) – Members of unions, students and government officials took to the streets in various cities in Colombia on Wednesday to mark traditional Labor Day demonstrations, except this year they seemed like a government countermarch.

Left-wing President Gustavo Petro had called on his supporters to fill streets and main plazas in support of his government 10 days after massive opposition demonstrations took place in the country.

Petro had announced days earlier that he would accompany the workers’ marches in the capital Bogota and then give a speech. On Wednesday, he stood on the main stage in the emblematic Plaza de Bolivar and spoke for more than an hour.

He lashed out at the opposition over anti-government rallies that took place on April 21 when thousands of people showed their discontent with his government.

“They think the country has not changed, that the workers can be whipped clean like the slave herds of the past,” Petro said. “We are not afraid. The more they challenge us to confrontation, the more we are happy. We will not back down.”

He also announced the breaking of diplomatic relations with Israel, claiming that it is led by a “genocidal government.” When he made the announcement, shouts of support were heard and Palestinian flags were waved.

Despite objections from some trade unions who felt that the call gave the president the limelight on a date that had to be centered on workers, the demonstrations were successful. Thousands of people came out in the country’s main cities, including Bogota, Barranquilla, Cartagena and Cali.

Many joined the rallies with banners supporting Petro’s controversial health and labor reforms that have not passed in Congress due to a lack of consensus between the government and legislators.

The opposition has said it could call for more protests in the coming days.

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