Tens of thousands of students have taken to the streets in all of Colombia’s major cities, to defend what they see as their right to free speech and education.
In Bogota, at least 20 thousand students are threatening to bring Colombia’s capital city to a halt, a week after effectively shutting down the capital in a protest against university reforms.
According to Medellin newspaper El Colombiano, some 6,000 students are marching in Colombia’s second largest city.
Bogota authorities are attempting to prevent the marches from blocking roads and clogging up the city’s public transport systems, but according to local media, the marches have already begun causing major traffic jams in the capital.
So far no disturbances have been reported, despite warnings by the police that guerrilla group FARC would try to infiltrate the marches.
Students across the country decided to go ahead with the scheduled protest march despite the government’s announcement that they will withdraw a controversial proposal to reform higher education.
President Juan Manuel Santos announced Wednesday that he was willing to withdraw the proposal if the students stopped protesting and classes continued, however students said they will only end the protest once the reform is off the table.
According to student leader Jairo Rivera, the student protest is being continued with two objectives. “The first is to confirm that education in Colombia should be a right that is free and financed by the state. The second is to confirm that social movement is essential for the advances of this country.”
Student leaders confirmed that they intended to shut down Bogota in what they hope will be “the biggest march of a generation.”
Student organizations will meet on Saturday to discuss whether to end their strike after Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo vowed to involve students in future university reform plans and promised guarantees that the initial reform would not be presented to Congress.