Protests continue for fifth day in Colombia

By Associated Press Reporter

Students, women’s activists and indigenous people marched through the centre of Colombia’s capital in a fifth day of protests against the government of conservative President Ivan Duque.

The demonstration was initially meant to commemorate the International Day of Nonviolence Against Women but soon became an anti-government rally, with protesters venting their frustration over issues including corruption, economic inequality and violence in rural areas.

Colombia has been rattled by protests since Thursday, when an estimated 250,000 people took to the streets amid a strike organised by unions, student groups and indigenous bodies.

The protest was the largest Colombia had seen in years, and was followed by dozens of smaller demonstrations as well as riots that resulted in the deaths of three people and prompted authorities to impose a curfew in Bogota for the first time since 1977.

An anti-government demonstrator after climbing a statue of South American independence hero Simon Bolivar in Bogota (Ivan Valencia/AP)

The unrest comes after mass anti-government demonstrations erupted in Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. Those outbursts caused leaders in Ecuador and Chile to propose changes in economic policies and forced Bolivia’s president to resign.

Some Colombian protesters say they have been inspired by the events elsewhere in the region.

“The people have awoken,” said Julio Pardo, a social sciences teacher who attended the march in Bogota. “We will no longer allow our leaders to humiliate us.”

In response to the growing unrest, Colombia’s president launched a “national dialogue” on Sunday to address such issues as rural violence, environmental policy and “growth with equity”.

Mr Duque met with recently elected governors and mayors on Sunday night and held talks with business leaders and some unions on Monday.

On Tuesday, Mr Duque met protest organisers in an effort to quell the unrest – but the talks ended without any clear indication of whether they will continue.

The president and the National Strike Committee discussed 13 protester demands.

Colombian vice president Martha Lucia Ramirez said protesters want a separate dialogue with Mr Duque.

She described it as a “constructive” meeting and said the government has invited them to return whenever they wish to become part of the national dialogue.

Union organiser Diogenes Orjuela said protesters see their talks as a separate undertaking.