By decision of President Duque, more than a thousand soldiers are now patrolling Cali where at least thirteen people were killed on Friday.
The Colombian army, obeying the order of President Ivan Duque, on Saturday began deploying a thousand troops in the city of Cali, the epicenter of anti-government protests, where at least thirteen people were killed on Friday.
The streets of the country’s third largest city, 2.2 million, were almost deserted on Saturday, the day after clashes between protesters, police and armed civilians that left at least 13 dead in various incidents. At least eight people have died from gunfire, police said.
An investigator from the Cali prosecutor’s office fired at the crowd, killing two civilians, before being lynched by protesters, according to the prosecution.
“I feel safer with the army than with the police (…) because here it has always been more respected,” said Modesto Tenorio, a 64-year-old trader.
The violence comes exactly one month after the April 28 uprising against a quickly abandoned tax reform project led by right-wing President Ivan Duque, which aimed to increase VAT and broaden the income tax base.
In a month of popular uprising, at least 59 dead, including two police officers, have been recorded in the country, according to an official count. Some 2,300 people were injured and 123 are missing. Human Rights Watch reports up to 63 deaths. For a month, the scenario has almost always been the same: by day, the demonstrations are peaceful and creative, at night the rebellion turns into riots where fireworks and Molotov cocktails mix with live ammunition.
This unprecedented revolt shakes the big cities, where barricades are erected and where road blockages cause shortages and exasperate part of the population. The government, despite mediators tasked with negotiating with the National Strike Committee, is unable to deactivate a crisis which, for the moment, does not threaten to overthrow it.
This sudden crisis has above all revealed, according to analysts, the dull anger of a politicized youth, impoverished by the pandemic, who no longer wants to be silent.
More than 1,100 troops have been deployed to restore order in Cali. In a decree signed Friday evening, Mr. Duque activated a military support device of about 7,000 men for the ten departments where roadblocks were erected.
For half a century, the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) obscured a reality that has become too glaring: according to the World Bank, Colombia ranks among the most unequal countries in terms of income and has the most informal job in Latin America.
The state concentrated in its fight against the guerrillas – the ELN and the dissidents of the Farc – and completely abandoned social demand. In 2019, a year after the election of Ivan Duque, students took to the streets to demand better and free public education, jobs, a more united state and society.
The pandemic put an end to the mobilization in 2020 without the 42-year-old head of state making too great concessions. The backlash is all the stronger, with poverty which has accelerated to reach 42.5% of the 50 million inhabitants, the pandemic plunging the most vulnerable into poverty.
The 2016 peace agreement, which disarmed what was once the most powerful guerrilla on the American continent, ended an outdated conflict, far from the new generation of city dwellers “who are discovering politics,” explains academic Hernando Gomez Buendia, author of the book “Between independence and the pandemic”. While a third of young people aged 14 to 28 do not work or study, “Colombia is becoming”, according to him, “a country of urban conflicts”.
“There is an active part of society that has long been excluded from politics, from the world of work and now from the education system, and who are tired of being excluded. It is the one who is demonstrating in the streets today, ”explains Sandra Borda.
The unpopularity of Ivan Duque, who is due to leave office in 2022, seems to work in favor of the left, which has never presided over the country. The former mayor of Bogota and ex-guerrilla Gustavo Petro is now leading the polls.
Against the backdrop of this social and security crisis, Colombia broke the record for daily deaths due to Covid-19 on Saturday with 540 deaths. According to the Ministry of Health, since the start of the epidemic in March 2020, the country of 50 million inhabitants has recorded more than 3.3 million cases of Covid-19 for 87,747 deaths.