BOGOTA (Reuters) – Hundreds of people marched in the Colombian capital, Bogota, on Sunday, in honour of a gravely injured teenage demonstrator, on the fourth day of protests in the Andean country that began with a 250,000-person march on Thursday.
The protests have been largely peaceful despite isolated looting in some areas and the first overnight curfew in Bogotá in a generation. Demonstrators’ grievances range from anger at economic plans that the government of President Ivan Duque denies supporting to what protesters say is a lack of action to stop corruption and the killing of human rights activists. Protesters have criticized authorities – most notably the ESMAD riot police – for heavy-handedness, especially after 18-year-old Dilan Cruz was injured by a tear gas canister on Saturday afternoon. Cruz, who remains in critical condition, represents “the fight from the bottom for a better country,” said recent engineering graduate David Baron, 25, as he joined a chanting crowd on the corner where Cruz was hit. “We are marching for all the injustices in this country – we thought the problem was the war, but it’s really corruption,” Baron said. A Twitter user who said she was Cruz’s sister thanked people for their support in posts on Sunday and called for non-violence. Colombians have gathered in dozens of festive, hours-long “cacerolazo” demonstrations – a traditional Latin American protest in which people bang pots and pans. Some cacerolazos were dispersed with tear gas early on Saturday, while others – featuring music and fireworks – were allowed to continue late into the night. Duque was meeting with incoming mayors and governors on Sunday before further meetings this week, which he has said will focus on social issues and the fight against corruption.
The government said three people were killed following Thursday’s protests. Police connected the deaths to alleged looting and said the incident was under investigation. Duque’s administration has been plagued by problems during his 15 months in office, including a combative congress, low approval ratings and unsuccessful legislative efforts. The protests have coincided with demonstrations elsewhere in Latin America, from anti-austerity marches in Chile and protests over vote-tampering allegations in Bolivia that led President Evo Morales to resign, to inflamed tensions in Ecuador and Nicaragua.
(Reporting by Julia Cobb-Symes; Editing by Peter Cooney)