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Colombia protests leave 19 dead, more than 800 injured as strike continues

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Photo: MinDefensa
After four days of protests across Colombia against President Iván Duque and the government’s proposed legislation to overhaul the country’s taxation system, on Sunday afternoon,
President Duque ordered Congress to remove the Reforma Tributaria to draft a new proposal based on political “consensus.” At the beginning of the first full working day of a week that enters mandatory quarantine as of 8 pm Thursday,
Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla handed in his resignation. President Duque accepted the end of Carrasquilla’s tenure as a senior member of his cabinet.
In nine years since the last tax reform was passed by Congress – during the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos – the country has faced profound changes and challenges, from expanding demographics, growing social inequality, the influx of 1,8 million Venezuelan migrants, a peace accord with the largest guerrilla FARC and post-conflict financing, as well as rise in new criminal organizations. The outbreak of a global pandemic, that would inevitably impact Colombia’s health system was not expected, and 14 months after the first case was confirmed in Bogotá,

Colombia protests marred by violence and 490 COVID-19 deaths

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Courtesy: MIO
The national strike day summoned by trade unions, civic organizations and left-wing parties to protest against a tax reform bill making its way through Congress began in Bogotá like a sequel to every other Paro Nacional. As percussion ensembles accompanied the labor leaders gathered at Parque Nacional, thousands of peaceful demonstrators made their way towards Plaza de Bolivar to voice their discontent over the economic policies of President Iván Duque.
Even though the Ministry of Health and district administration of Mayor Claudia López had urged the strike committee to postpone the protest until the Colombian capital had passed the third wave of coronavirus infection, demonstrators thronged the historic square in heavy rainfall, some under umbrellas, others crammed in doorways of local shops.

Bogotá's Claudia López: "We face the most difficult two weeks of our lives"

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Photo: Alcaldía de Bogotá
Bogotá Mayor Claudia López came through on her word that should ICU occupation reach 90% Sunday, additional health measures would be introduced. In a very to-the-point media briefing, after the Colombian capital registered 73 deaths from COVID-19 of the worst day for Colombia with 465, Mayor López confirmed that of the capital’s 2,530 ICUs only 241 are available (90.5%).
“Bogotá faces the two most difficult weeks of the pandemic,” stated López, before striking a personal tone with the recent surge in new cases and deaths. “We are going to face the most difficult two weeks of our lives.”

Colombia coronavirus cases top 1 Million as Antioquia becomes epicenter of pandemic

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Photo: Carlos Ortega/EFE
Thursday saw both Spain and France surpass one million cases of coronavirus, lowering Colombia’s global ranking on the Johns Hopkins tally from six to eighth-place.
On Saturday, Colombia became the only other Latin American nation besides Brazil in reaching the worrisome seven-digit benchmark – 1,007,711 – despite the number of active cases standing at 68,008 or 907,379 patients recovered. And even though there has been a lowering of daily new infections since reaching the first “peak” of the pandemic on August 19 with 13,056 cases, on Wednesday, Bogotá saw one of the largest mass demonstrations against the government as an estimated 18,000 took to the streets, including 7,000 representatives of the Misak, Nasa and Pijao indigenous communities.

What Colombia faces with a Trump or Biden presidency | The City Paper Bogotá

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November 3, 2020
With the outcome of the U.S Presidential election just hours – or worst case scenario a few days – away, among the many campaign promises, accusations, and character slamming on the campaign trail, there was one issue that both candidates could agree on: Colombia is a cornerstone of U.S foreign policy in the hemisphere, and both incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice-President Joe Biden will work to maintain a strong bilateral relationship with the South American ally.
Should Trump be elected to a second term in the White House, his relationship with President Iván Duque will be shortened as the current Colombian leader has passed his midterm and faces another year of the coronavirus pandemic and stumped economic growth before a new electoral season mid 2021. While Trump will continue to pressure Colombia to extend aerial fumigation of illegal crops with glyphosate and reach manual eradication targets of coca, a Republican win also sends a clear message to Colombia’s left-wing politicians that the former two-term conservative President Álvaro Uribe remains for the GOP a “national hero” and politician who espoused U.S security interests in the region at a time when Venezuela was forging close political and economic ties with Cuba under Hugo Chavéz’s newly instated Bolivarian Revolution.

Colombia inaugurates two Chinese mega-projects in less than a week.

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October 28, 2020
During the last week, Colombia witnessed the inauguration of two of the largest infrastructure projects in the country of public-private equity between the national government and China. Among the most anticipated is the construction of the First Line of the Bogotá Metro, officialized during a ceremony with Mayor Claudia López and Wu Yu of Metro Línea 1 S.A.S. – the concessionaire representing China Harbor Engineering Company Limited and Xi’An Metro Ltd.
The ceremony at the designated work yard in the locality of Bosa launches the largest transportation public works project in Colombia with an initial investment of US$5.2 billion, of which the national government will finance 70%. China Harbor Engineering and Xi’An Metro worked on the construction of the Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Sydney metros. The national government was represented by Transportation Minister Ángela María Orozco and Presidential Administrative director Diego Molano.

Colombia coronavirus cases near 1 Million as a week of demonstrations begin

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October 19, 2020
Bogotá is bracing itself for days of anti-government marches that will culminate  Wednesday with the national strike – Paro Nacional – summoned by civic organizations, human rights groups, unions and leaders of the country’s left-wing political parties.
Almost a year after the first mass protests of the National Strike on November 21 and which resulted in widespread acts of vandalism, looting and confrontations with the National Police, Wednesday’s mobilizations also include some 7,500 members of the country’s indigenous peoples rallied together as a Minga.
After a nine-day walk from the southwestern city of Cali, the Minga was welcomed to the capital city on Sunday by Bogotá Mayor Claudia López, who stated on Twitter: “Bogotá received the indigenous Minga as it deserves, with affection and respect. No danger has arrived. Citizens have come with legitimate causes, healthy and after a totally peaceful journey.” López went on to add in a separate tweet: “We in the Mayor’s Office do not have the power to prohibit or approve marches; our role is to accompany them and ensure that they are peaceful.” On Monday, the Minga will concentrate in Bogotá’s central square Plaza de Bolívar.

Colombia's indigenous peoples lead peaceful anti-government protest

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Photo: Courtesy: CUT
Labor unions, teachers, civic organizations and student movements marched to Bogotá’s central square Plaza de Bolívar following the caravans of the indigenous Minga, representing communities across southwestern Colombia.
After four days in which members of the Misak, Guambia, Nasa and Inga tribes came to the capital to accompany the National Strike – Paro Nacional – as of Wednesday afternoon, the marches were being conducted in peace with major roads cleared to facilitate the movement of thousands of demonstrators toward the historic center.
With the Indigenous Guard protecting the anti-government protestors from potential vandals and violent infiltrators, the representatives of the Minga officially handed-over during a ceremony on a stage facing the Capitol, the protest to the National Strike Committee, before returning on a 500-kilometer journey to their ancestral territories. The Minga came to Bogotá to protest against the killing of their social leaders and failed implementation of the peace accords with the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla. According to human rights organizations, 164 indigenous activists have been killed so far this year by illegal armed groups fighting for control of lucrative drug routes between coca-growing regions and the Pacific coast.

Colombia coronavirus cases near 1 Million as a week of demonstrations begin

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October 19, 2020
Bogotá is bracing itself for days of anti-government marches that will culminate  Wednesday with the national strike – Paro Nacional – summoned by civic organizations, human rights groups, unions and leaders of the country’s left-wing political parties.
Almost a year after the first mass protests of the National Strike on November 21 and which resulted in widespread acts of vandalism, looting and confrontations with the National Police, Wednesday’s mobilizations also include some 7,500 members of the country’s indigenous peoples rallied together as a Minga.
After a nine-day walk from the southwestern city of Cali, the Minga was welcomed to the capital city on Sunday by Bogotá Mayor Claudia López, who stated on Twitter: “Bogotá received the indigenous Minga as it deserves, with affection and respect. No danger has arrived. Citizens have come with legitimate causes, healthy and after a totally peaceful journey.” López went on to add in a separate tweet: “We in the Mayor’s Office do not have the power to prohibit or approve marches; our role is to accompany them and ensure that they are peaceful.” On Monday, the Minga will concentrate in Bogotá’s central square Plaza de Bolívar.

Indigenous Minga arrives in Bogotá ahead of Wednesday's national strike

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Photo: The City Paper
Representatives of Colombia’s many indigenous peoples are reaching the capital Bogotá after walking from the southwestern city of Cali to join the national strike protests on October 21.
Some 7,000 members of the Nasa, Inga, Guambia and Totoró communities have rallied together as a “Minga” – traditional gathering – in order to present the government of President Iván Duque with grievances regarding the implementation of the peace accords with the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla and assassination of social leaders by illegal armed groups operating in their ancestral territory.
The Minga was organized by the communities in the departments of Cauca, Nariño, Valle del Cauca in the southwest of the country. “We want this President, who governs with his back to the country, to listen to social organizations, to build a national agenda from the streets, with farmers, indigenous people and students,” remarked one of the organizers Jhonatan Centeno.

Claudia López lifts all restrictions in Bogotá, Paro Nacional protests in peace

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September 21, 2020
Ten months after the National Strike Committee mobilized demonstrations against the economic and social policies of the government of President Iván Duque and which turned violent on November 21, mass gatherings were banned with the strict lockdowns that went into effect mid-March with the National Health Emergency.
With a slate of more than 100 grievances presented to the national government last year by the country’s three largest trade unions, as well as educators and students groups, one month after Mayor Claudia López ended rotating lockdowns in the capital, the Committee announced the return of Paro Nacional for September 21, and called their supporters to demonstrate peacefully. The first official Paro Nacional since the coronavirus outbreak on March 6, comes also with the lifting of all restrictions in Bogotá after six months in which residents were subject to a strict quarantine, gradual reopening of authorized economic sectors, a gender-based mobility measure (Pico y género) and lastly, an identity card one: Pico y cédula.

Bogotá reactivation comes as leftist politicians call for renewed social protest

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Photo: María Claudia Peña
Anti-government demonstrations that began last year on November 21 as the Paro Nacional (National Strike) and which followed mass social protests across Latin America, many fueled by left-wing political parties, unions and student organizations, have announced a return to Bogotá streets on Friday and less than a week after the nationwide quarantine was lifted.
The protest, referred to on social media as 4S, is directed against President Iván Duque, and grievances include the government’s response to a rash of massacres that in recent weeks claimed the lives of 36 youngsters, the killing of 135 social leaders and activists during the first eight months of 2020, and plans to resume aerial fumigation of coca crops with the toxic herbicide glyphosate. The country’s largest unions have not confirmed a date for next national strike.

Bogotá reactivation comes as leftist politicians call for renewed social protest

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Photo: María Claudia Peña
Anti-government demonstrations that began last year on November 21 as the Paro Nacional (National Strike) and which followed mass social protests across Latin America, many fueled by left-wing political parties, unions and student organizations, have announced a return to Bogotá streets on Friday and less than a week after the nationwide quarantine was lifted.
The protest, referred to on social media as 4S, is directed against President Iván Duque, and grievances include the government’s response to a rash of massacres that in recent weeks claimed the lives of 36 youngsters, the killing of 135 social leaders and activists during the first eight months of 2020, and plans to resume aerial fumigation of coca crops with the toxic herbicide glyphosate. The country’s largest unions have not confirmed a date for next national strike.

Guaidó in Colombia: "Petro is an accomplice of Maduro"

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Photo: Presidencia de la República.
Juan Guaidó, the Venezuelan opposition leader and legitimate President recognized by more than 60 nations, accused the former Mayor of Bogotá and Senator, Gustavo Petro, as “an accomplice of the dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro.” Guaidó’s remarks were made after a wreath-laying ceremony inside Colombia’s largest police academy,
Escuela de Cadetes General Santander, scene of a car bomb attack by the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla on January 17, 2019, that killed 22 cadets.
Within the framework of a three-day anti-terrorism conference taking place in the Colombian capital, attended by 25 foreign ministers including U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Guaidó accused Petro of “ignoring what happens in Venezuela,” and in doing so, is “an accomplice of the dictatorship, accomplice of terrorist groups, of hunger.” Guaidó added that the situation inside Venezuela “is not an ideology,” and by backing a “dictatorship financed by Venezuelan corruption,” Petro backs “misery and profound human tragedies.”

Colombia enacts tough security measures for Thursday's nationwide strike

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Photo: Presidencia de la República
The government of President Iván Duque is enacting tough security measures to guarantee public safety during the nationwide strike on Thursday, November 21, including a decree that gives mayors and governors “extraordinary powers” to ban liquor sales, restrict the carrying of weapons, and declare a curfew.
With millions expected to take to the streets in protest over the government’s economic policies, Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez remarked to the media that all possible risks and outcomes of the Paro Nacional have been studied in high-level cabinet meetings. The decree, according to Gutiérrez, gives local and departmental authorities autonomy to call a curfew “when circumstances warrant,” coordinated with the Army and National Police. The country’s acting Attorney General, Fabio Espitia also referenced the strike, stating that the entity has “the power to prosecute criminal acts committed during the marches.” Recently-appointed Defense Minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, assured citizens that the government “will guarantee the right to peaceful protest,” yet confront acts of violence or vandalism.

Colombian CEOs cautiously optimistic on economic growth before COVID-19

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Photo: Richard Emblin
The CEOs of Colombia’s leading companies appeared “cautiously optimistic” regarding the state of the economy in 2020, according to the 10th Presidents Survey released by accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC).
As part of their annual global CEO Survey, the Colombian edition followed the trend in uncertainty when it came to forecasting how businesses would adapt to geopolitical conflicts, trade wars, economic sanctions, social unrest, and cybersecurity. All these without contemplating a worldwide pandemic that when the survey was presented at the Davos Economic Summit back in January was an epidemic contained in Wuhan, China.
In contrast with the same survey published in 2018 that recorded high levels of optimism among the leaders of the world’s largest corporations, the outlook for this year depends on specific markets. While the Colombian economy was on solid footing with 3.3% GDP growth – outperforming regional players – growth seemed to be accompanied by caution.

Medellín authorizes police entry on campuses when protests turn violent

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February 12, 2020
In an unprecedented move to guarantee the safety of students, the Mayor of Medellín Daniel Quintero has authorized security forces, including the National Police’s anti-riot squad (Esmad), to enter educational institutions when explosives are used by protesters.
in a written statement released by Quintero, the decision is based on his “Constitutional duty to ensure the safety of all citizens […] and the entire university community.” According to the 39-year politician, who took office on January 1, 2020, security forces can “regain control” of universities once students who are not participating are evacuated. The measure includes the authorized entry of anti-explosives teams.

With Bogotá protests set for January 21, Claudia López faces first challenge of mayoralty

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Photo: The City Paper
The National Strike Committee has announced a return to the streets on Tuesday, January 21, and the first serious challenge to the mayoralty of Claudia López since taking office two weeks ago. After a month-long recess with the Christmas holidays, the start of mass protests in Bogotá could once again disrupt mobility for millions of commuters on TransMilenio and test, not only the patience of those not participating in the Paro Nacional (as are the majority of
Bogotanos) but also public safety after Mayor López informed the National Police to only use the Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) under her direct orders.

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