Clashes between protesters and police that erupted in Bogota on Tuesday amid demonstrations for improved public transport have left at least 30 people injured and eight arrested, local authorities said.
Locations of the protests
FACT SHEET: TransMilenio
Bogota Health Secretary Aldo Cadena told RCN Radio that 30 people were taken to hospital after the violence had surged. The vast majority of the injured was able to go home after an initial check-up.
General Edgar Sanchez, Bogota’s police chief, told press agency Colprensa that eight people were arrested as security forces tried to break up the protests that paralyzed the Colombian capital’s mass transit system.
Eight policemen were also taken to hospital following clashes with angry mobs.
The protests began early Tuesday morning as hundreds of Bogota commuters blocked stations and bus lines to demand improvement in the city’s clogged public transport system.
Police were dispatched and tried to break up the protests by throwing tear gas at the protesters.
Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro visited the Suba bus station in an attempt to ease the protests.
The mayor told the crowd he would renegotiate contracts with bus companies to increase the amount of space per passenger in public transport vehicles. Petro also asked the protesters for patience as the city is preparing the construction of a metro line that should take pressure of Bogota’s problematic traffic jams and overcrowded public transport system.
The Mayor’s Office claimed on Twitter that the protests had been infiltrators by rioters who had been paid almost $20 to cause disturbances and put pressure on the mayor who was dismissed in December, but is allowed to stay in office while his appeal is pending.
— Bogotá Humana (@BogotaHumanaYA) March 4, 2014
According to Caracol Radio, public transport returned to normality in the afternoon.
The protests escalated after days of demonstrations by commuters claiming that nearly-empty TransMilenio buses pass by the bus stations without stopping while others that do stop are unreasonably full.
This is not the first time that unrest has broken out in the capital over the city’s increasingly congested mass transport system. In March 2012, violent protests over the bad performance of the system led to the arrest of around 60 people and left five bus stations destroyed.