Colombia’s President Ivan Duque on Sunday said “pyromaniacs” are promoting violence amid peaceful protests against his government.
Despite repeated pleas to end the stigmatization and engage in dialogue, Duque again focused on violent incidents that have little or nothing to do with the largely peaceful protests.
We do not want society to have more pyromaniacs inviting young people to express themselves through violence; and we do not want young people to feel that the only way to be heard is through protest.
President Ivan Duque
The president additionally echoed controversial business association Fenalco’s claim that the protests cost the private sector $324 million (1 billion pesos) in the first week.
All citizen expressions are heard, but we cannot continue to see more losses in the economy, because if we listen to each other and have, in addition, a vibrant democracy with institutions, it cannot be that we have lost a billion pesos in a week, because those are the incomes of humble shopkeepers, of working and devoted families.
President Ivan Duque
No indication Duque wants to talk
Duque’s persistent refusal to engage in meaningful dialogue with social organizations spurred labor unions, students and indigenous organizations to call for a national strike on November 21.
The government’s attempts to stigmatize and allegedly sabotage this strike triggered additional anti-government protests that have been ongoing since then.
The strike organizers have called for a fourth national strike day for Monday in an attempt to force the weakened president into negotiations over controversial economic and peace policies.
President persists in widely rejected “National Dialogue”
Duque has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the National Strike Committee and has been leading a “National Dialogue” with negotiation partners picked by the government.
No representative of the national strike, or the anti-government protests that came with it, has been taking part in this “dialogue.”
With the exception of United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Duque’s far-right Democratic center party, no political party or social movement has even expressed support for Duque’s initiative.
Colombia’s peace movement says Duque’s ‘national conversation’ is ‘neither inclusive, democratic nor efficient’
While trying to keep up appearances, Duque’s controversial response to the national strike and the protests has severely weakened his position.
Coalition partners have distanced themselves from the president and several media have reported that even in Duque’s own party there is growing discontent about the unpopular government.