Protesters have been taking to the streets in the South American country for weeks – violent riots have happened again and again. Now the government is ready to talk: students must be delivered from the corona crisis.
Bogotá (dpa) – After days of protests in Colombia, the Colombian government has made the first concessions.
In the second semester of 2021, studying at public universities will be free for students from low-income families, President Iván Duque announced on a visit to the city of Cali. “We want to listen to the different sectors of our country and make a pact for the youth,” said Duque. “This is a fundamental pillar for equality in Colombia.”
For nearly two weeks, there have been numerous protests in Colombia, some of which have led to violence. According to the ombudsman, more than 40 people died during the protest days. According to Human Rights Watch, at least 13 protesters and a police officer are known to have died in connection with the protests. The human rights organization had recently repeatedly criticized the police crackdown on protesters.
On Tuesday evening, a protester in Pereira died of his serious injuries after days of pain in the hospital. Strangers had fired eight bullets at him in the past week. The 37-year-old yoga teacher quickly became a symbol of the protests. A video circulated on social networks of the man shouting during a demonstration: “They’re killing us in Colombia.”
First, people demonstrated against a controversial tax reform that President Duque has since repealed. Most protesters now have new goals, such as opposing a planned health reform and advocating for the fragile peace process.
The government finally agreed to talk to the strike committee on Monday. The group, which includes various trade unions, social movements and student associations, advocates, among other things, for free education, subsidies for small businesses and more measures against discrimination. However, no agreement was reached at the first meeting. While the strike committee called for an end to the violence of the security forces, Duque demanded the dismantling of the roadblocks that made supplies to countless cities difficult for days on end.
Colombia is the second most populous country after Brazil and the United States’ main ally in South America. Civil war raged there for over 50 years, 220,000 people died and millions were displaced. In 2016, the Colombian government made peace with the far-left guerrillas. The economy then experienced a revival, tourism – also from Germany – boomed. But peace is unstable and excessive police brutality is a setback.
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