‘Four people die’ during violent demonstrations in Colombia 

Four people died in Colombia during anti-government protests on Friday, as the Latin American country marked a full month of the violent demonstrations that have claimed dozens of lives. 

In Cali, which has become an epicenter of the nationwide protests, Mayor Jorge Ospina confirmed three of the deaths. Local media reported the fourth death occurred on the road between Cali and the town of Candelaria.  

Video footage showed a man lying in a pool of blood and another nearby wielding a gun, who was then attacked by a group of people. Ospina regretted what he described as an ‘insane situation of death and pain’. 

Colombians first took to the streets on April 28 against a proposed tax increase many said would leave them poorer even as the coronavirus pandemic was erasing jobs and eating into savings.

Though the reform was withdrawn, it triggered a broad anti-government mobilization by people who felt they were left to fend for themselves in the health crisis, and angry over the heavy-handed response of the security forces.

The police clampdown has provoked international condemnation. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Colombia’s Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez in Washington on Friday.

Anti-government protesters take cover from a police water cannon during clashes in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Anti-government protesters take cover from a police water cannon during clashes in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Anti-government protesters take cover from a police water cannon during clashes in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) confront protesters during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) confront protesters during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) confront protesters during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Demonstrators greet a soldier during anti-government protests in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Demonstrators greet a soldier during anti-government protests in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Demonstrators greet a soldier during anti-government protests in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Protesters confront members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Protesters confront members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Protesters confront members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

The US diplomat ‘expressed his concern and condolences for the loss of life during recent protests in Colombia and reiterated the unquestionable right of citizens to protest peacefully,’ according to spokesman Ned Price.

Blinken also ‘welcomed the national dialogue President (Ivan) Duque has convened as an opportunity for the Colombian people to work together to construct a peaceful, prosperous future.’ Two weeks of negotiations to end the unrest have yet to bear fruit.

In order to move forward, protest leaders insist the government must acknowledge abuses by the armed forces. But Bogota, while conceding individual bad apples, claims leftist guerrillas and dissident FARC fighters have infiltrated the demonstrations to foment violence and vandalism.

On Monday, the White House had urged Colombia to find more than 100 people reported missing as a result of the unrest. Some 2,000 people have been reported injured.

‘There must be dialogue between those calling for strikes, the national government, and the whole of society. If there are no talks, the spiral of violence will continue and unfortunately more people could die,’ Ospina said. 

An anti-government protester throws a baggie of paint at a police vehicle during clashes in Madrid, in the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

An anti-government protester throws a baggie of paint at a police vehicle during clashes in Madrid, in the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

An anti-government protester throws a baggie of paint at a police vehicle during clashes in Madrid, in the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) detain a protester during a day of protests today, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) detain a protester during a day of protests today, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) detain a protester during a day of protests today, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

An anti-government protester runs through clouds of tear gas during clashes with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia

An anti-government protester runs through clouds of tear gas during clashes with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia

An anti-government protester runs through clouds of tear gas during clashes with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia

Two people in Cali were killed when an agent of the attorney general’s investigative unit opened fire on civilians, before also being killed, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa said in a televised message. 

The agent was not on duty at the time, Barbosa said. Violence has marked demonstrations over the last four weeks. 

The government has so far confirmed 17 civilian deaths as directly connected with protests, while human rights groups claim dozens more civilians have been killed by security forces.  Two police officers were also earlier reported killed during the protests. 

Demonstrations began on April 28, pressuring the government and lawmakers into shelving tax and health reforms and leading to the resignation of former finance minister Alberto Carrasquilla. 

Amid singing and music during demonstrations in capital Bogota, protesters told Reuters they would keep marching even after a month of demonstrations. 








Anti-government protesters take cover during clashes with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Anti-government protesters take cover during clashes with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Anti-government protesters take cover during clashes with police in Madrid, on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia, Friday, May 28, 2021

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Protesters and members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) clash during a day of protests, in Madrid, a municipality near Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) confront protesters during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) confront protesters during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) confront protesters during a new day of demonstrations within the framework of the National Strike, in the Usme sector, south of Bogota, Colombia

Since withdrawal of the tax reform at the start of the month, protester demands have expanded to include a basic income, opportunities for young people and an end to police violence. 

‘Until the government listens to us, we have to stay in the streets,’ said Alejandro Franco, 23. Close to graduating, he told Reuters he was marching for better education and health, among other reasons. 

‘If the people don’t have peace then neither will the government,’ he added. 

Some said the long-running protests are putting them under financial pressure. 

‘I have to close my shop every time there are protests,’ Laudice Ramirez, 62, said in the south of the city.  ‘I’m going bankrupt, but the youth don’t have any other options for opportunities.’ 

Despite the government and protest leaders reaching a ‘pre-agreement’ for ending demonstrations this week, strike organizers on Thursday said the government had not signed the deal and accused it of stalling. 

‘We have already reached the agreement, the only thing missing is the president’s signature to start the negotiations,’ Francisco Maltes, president of the Central Union of Workers (CUT), said on Friday, accusing the government of delaying talks. 

The government said it had not signed the deal because some protest leaders would not condemn road blocks, calling the issue non negotiable, and adding that talks will resume on Sunday. 

Colombia’s finance ministry estimates protests and roadblocks have cost the country $2.68billion, with the roadblocks leading to shortages of food and other supplies, boosting prices, and disrupting operations in the country’s main seaport as well as for hundreds of companies.

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