Colombians challenge the government's social policy

The popular movement of magnitude makes fear in the power in place a contagion of the Chilean demonstrations.

Time to Reading 3 min.

Anti-government protesters marched in Bogota, Colombia's capital, on 21 November. Ivan Valencia / AP

In a turbulent Latin America, it was Thursday, November 21, the turn of Colombians to go down the street. Unions, opposition parties, students, Indian organizations, ecologists, feminists called for a day of strikes and demonstrations to protest President Ivan Duque's social policy and to defend the peace agreement signed with the guerrillas in 2016. Once is not customary, the Catholic Church itself had expressed its support for the mobilization.

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Everywhere, the demonstrations took place in the calm and the gaiety, before the arrival, here and there, of groups of rioters and riot police. Forty civilians and nearly as many police officers were wounded, according to the authorities. In Cali, southwest of the capital Bogota, a curfew was declared from 19 hours.

Tinkling pans

In order not to let the day end with this violence, a call for a "cacerolazo" was launched on social networks. In all the cities of the country and in all the districts of the capital, the tinkling of the spoons on the pans echoed loudly in the night, for the first time in the history of Colombia. The government's record shows 207,000 demonstrators at the national level, a figure that is not credible in view of the extent of the mobilization in all towns and villages. In Bogotá, the large Plaza de Bolivar downtown was overflowing with protesters in the early afternoon.

"Colombia finally wakes up", rejoices a 72-year-old woman protester. The country that is coming out – with difficulty – from a long armed conflict is not used to big street protests. The organizers welcomed the success of the strike and the mobilization. "By its size and language, this movement is unprecedented," considers peace activist Camilo Gonzalez.

"Without fear and with hope"

"Today, Colombians have spoken. We are listening. The social dialogue that we must deepen with all sectors of society has been the main banner of this government ", said Ivan Duque in the evening. But the head of state did not respond to the organizations of the National Strike Committee asking to meet him. In power for eighteen months, Ivan Duque is credited with 69% of negative opinions by a recent survey.

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"I am convinced, like many, that we need to change Colombia, explains Juan Carlos Florez, city councilor in Bogota. Millions have waited for years to make this change in a peaceful way. Today, we are finally in the street without fear and hope. "

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