Colombia announces talks to end anti-government protests for Tuesday

Colombia’s labor minister said that President Ivan Duque will meet with the organizers of a national strike on Tuesday after five days of anti-government protests.

Labor Minister Alicia Arango rushed to make the announcement while hundreds of thousands of Colombians were on the street for the second day of strikes after a Bogota hospital announced that the health of a protester shot by police had deteriorated and was “irreversible.”

The talks with the strike organizers are organized parallel to a “National Conversation” announced by the president last week.

The president will meet  tomorrow with the representatives of the national strike and afterwards other sectors will come to present whatever other concerns they have.

Labor Minister Alicia Arango

The swelling protests have forced the president to advance meetings that initially weren’t supposed to begin until Wednesday.

After a spike in brutal police repression backfired on Saturday, Duque announced he would advance talks with incoming mayors and governors to Sunday and labor unions to Monday.

November 23, the night that Colombia’s anti-government protesters defeated repression

Following Sunday’s meeting, the president was accused of trying to dilate negotiations to end the protests after announcing an agenda that would last until mid March.

The labor unions and business leaders were apparently able to convince Duque to again advance talks, this time to convene the entire organization committee of the national strike led by students, labor unions and some 50 other social organizations.

Who in Colombia is taking part in national strike and why

Having refused to talk with the individual organizations for months, the president is now forced to talk with the social organizations collectively if he wants to negotiate an end to the broadly supported protests.

For five days, people from the capital Bogota to the smallest hamlet in the northern Guajira desert have been protesting in the biggest anti-government protest in more than four decades.

The national strike was already announced in October, but mushroomed after the killing of an indigenous governor triggered public indignation and the participation of indigenous organizations.

If we stay quiet they kill us and if we talk too, so let’s talk.

Murdered indigenous governor Cristina Bautista

The government’s subsequent attempt to deny public concerns despite his far-right party’s humiliating defeat in local elections and Duque’s disapproval rating peaking 69%, further increased support.

When also the violent repression backfired the president was forced to follow the strike leaders’ leads in an improvised attempt to prevent a full-blown uprising like in Ecuador or Chile in October.

While talking to the labor unions, a Bogota hospital treating an 18-year-old man who was shot by police on Saturday announced that the victim’s health had deteriorated and was “irreversible.”

With hundreds of thousands on the streets, Arango rushed to  announce the talks amid apparent concerns that the impending death of the protester could trigger an uncontrollable situation.

The strike organizers have announced more public events, including concerts, for the rest of the week, and will now be crucial to contain public outrage that could follow the expected death of the 18-year-old Dilan Cruz.

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