The street challenges the Government of Iván Duque in Colombia | International

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The protest this Wednesday in Bogotá.Luisa González / Reuters

President Iván Duque's refusal to meet personally with the indigenous minga, who traveled for a week to have an audience with him, was the preamble to a new day of social mobilization in Colombia promoted by the country's labor and union centrals. The march was peaceful and orderly. The massacres, the violence of the Armed Forces, the security problems suffered by social leaders in different regions and a series of economic claims were the center of the national strike, criticized by the Government for taking place in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The more than 8,000 indigenous people who arrived in Bogotá on Sunday began to return to Cauca, in southwestern Colombia. But before doing so, they traveled with their chivas – traditional colored buses – to the Plaza de Bolívar to accompany the demonstration. In Bogotá there was only one commission that is still waiting to be received by the president. The Government, for its part, has said that there will be no meeting because "the minga has political objectives" and, according to that version, it was proposed to give Duque an ultimatum and make a political trial. Meanwhile, senior officials traveled to the Cauca department to seek to meet with other indigenous communities, although most of their representatives were in the capital.

The peaceful visit of the indigenous minga, who did not arrive in Bogotá a decade ago because former presidents Álvaro Uribe and Juan Manuel Santos treated them in their territories, thwarted the arguments of the Government and leaders of the Democratic Center party who in previous days said that the Minga was infiltrated by armed groups and guerrilla dissidents and that would cause destruction in the capital.

This Wednesday, while the mobilization progressed, the Secretary of the Government of Bogotá, Luis Ernesto Gómez, showed on social networks that the indigenous people left the Palacio de los Deportes in perfect condition, where the mayor's office received the indigenous mobilization. Cleanliness and the risk of contagion of coronavirus was another of the reasons that the right-wing party used to avoid the mobilization. The mayor of the capital, Claudia López, also thanked the minga "for the great example it set for the city and the social organizations that have followed it."

Claims on the rise

After the paralysis of the pandemic, Colombia had already reactivated the demonstrations in the streets. In September, after a series of protests against police violence that left 13 dead, the workers' centrals called for a mobilization that was not massive, but functioned as a preamble to this Wednesday's strike. The presence of the minga seemed the impulse to this new day. This, however, did not achieve the size of the November 2019 demonstrations that put the Duque government on the ropes for several days and forced it to create a space for dialogue that it called the National Conversation.

During those days, the Government responded with strong police repression that left 36 protesters injured and one dead. Recently, the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the State to apologize to the citizens for the repression, not to stigmatize the social protest and to suspend the use of the 12-gauge shotgun used by the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad). That of this Wednesday then represented a kind of examination of the response of the police to the protest and the implementation of a protocol that the Government designed together with the mayor of Bogotá, not without differences. In the morning, before the demonstrations, the Ombudsman's Office made an inspection of the Esmad's weapons.

With regard to the national strike, the Government assures that it has listened to the demands made by workers and students in 2019 and that it "accelerated" an educational aid plan for 120,000 young people -the most marched last year- which made money available to improve the tracks in the field. He also argues that he signed the so-called Escazú Treaty, which promotes the protection of environmental leaders, although this is stalled in Congress, precisely due to doubts of the coalition that supports the Executive. However, with the deterioration of political violence in the country and the economic crisis after the health emergency, the demands are even stronger and promise to be expressed again in the streets.

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