Colombia’s two largest cities, the capital Bogota and Medellin, woke up Friday after a tumultuous night that saw ongoing clashes between authorities and protesters whose anti-government demonstration descended into chaos Thursday afternoon.
In both cities, police was forced to attend roadblocks protesters had been putting up on important entrance and exit points. However, in spite of efforts, Bogota remained disconnected from the city of Soacha, bordering the capital to the southwest,
In the capital, Mayor Gustavo Petro was forced to decree an immediate curfew and ban alcohol sales in four of the city’s 20 districts after admitting that “extremism took over the mobilization” and looting and rioting continued after Thursday’s initially peaceful protests descended into chaos.
The mayor of Soacha had already decreed a curfew earlier on Thursday afternoon when chaos erupted during the protests.
Bogota authorities said that violence in the capital district cost the lives of two people who were reportedly killed in brawl between rioters and police that also left 200 injured — 26 of whom were in a serious condition – and 40 arrested since the afternoon. In Soacha a third person was killed.
Insecurity about the situation caused the capital city’s buses to be only half-full; on a normal Friday morning they are bursting, reported Caracol Radio.
The radio station said that an inspection of the affected districts of Cuidad Bolivar, Bosa, Suba and Engativa showed how the capital had visibly been the victim of looting and vandalism to both public and private property.
In Rionegro, a town just outside Medellin, a 15-year-old boy was killed as local protesters tried to close the road connecting their city to Medellin. In the municipality of Copacabana, just north of the Antioquian capital, locals tried to block the highway connecting Medellin to the north of the country. The same highway was also blocked in the neighboring municipality of Barbosa.
Governor Sergio Fajardo rejected the violence and blamed the organizers of breaking agreements with local authorities. “The protesters had an initial route. They had the permission to do it. But they didn’t respect [the agreement] and authorities were obliged to intervene.”
While city, department and national governments alike blamed the protesters for the violence, the demonstrators blamed police for inciting the initial wave of violence that broke out after largely peaceful marches.
In Cali, Colombia’s third largest city, no major violent outbreaks were reported.
The Bogota and Medellin riots broke out as peaceful anti-government demonstrations reached their destination and — to the surprise of the vast majority of protesters — clashes erupted between tense and nervous police on one side, and hooded men throwing self-made bombs, bricks, rocks and sticks on the other.
The protest was organized as a show of support for Colombia’s farmers miners and truckers who have been on strike for twelve days without any indication a compromise with the government is imminent.
- Dos muertos y 200 heridos dejan disturbios y vandalismo en Bogotá (El Tiempo)
- El caos llegó a Soacha y Bogotá (El Espectador)