Pressure Mounts on Duque as Colombian Protesters Plan Mass Marches

By Sinikka Tarvainen, dpa

Dilan Cruz.  Foto: cadena3.com

HAVANA TIMES – Colombia on Tuesday mourned Dilan Cruz, a high school student who was fatally wounded during nationwide protests, while President Ivan Duque failed to reach an agreement with the demonstrators who announced new rallies.

Cruz, 18, was hit in the head by a police projectile during clashes in Bogota on Saturday.

He became a symbol of the protests rocking the country, with people holding vigils outside the Bogota hospital where he passed away late Monday.

Hundreds of young people gathered on Tuesday to sing outside the hospital, where citizens had left flowers, candles and messages.

“The state killed Dilan,” read a poster carried by a group of students who held white balloons and demanded the dismantling of the riot police Esmad elsewhere in the capital.

The South American country has seen six days of protests after more than 200,000 people marched on Thursday against economic reforms, a funding shortage for education, corruption and killings of community leaders by armed groups.

Some of the rallies turned violent, leading to clashes with police, looting and acts of vandalism. Cruz was the fourth person whose death was confirmed, after three other people were killed in the western department of Valle del Cauca on Thursday. More than 400 people have been injured.

Protests against Cruz’s death were held in several cities, including Barranquilla, Bucaramanga as well as Neiva, where demonstrators clashed with security forces.

Duque on Tuesday met with the National Strike Committee, which includes trade union and civil society representatives, but failed to reach an agreement to end the protests.

The committee rejected the president’s invitation to join his “national dialogue” which includes business leaders, political parties and social sectors.

The committee insists on exclusive talks with the government and demands measures including the cancellation of alleged plans for labour and pension reforms, the national broadcaster Canal Uno reported.

Duque announced some changes to an upcoming tax reform, such as value added tax relief for economically vulnerable citizens and lower health insurance payments for retired people.

But the committee was expected to maintain its call for nationwide marches on Wednesday.

With the violent protests, Colombia joined a wave of civil unrest in South America that has swept Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia.


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