An accumulation of strikes and anti-government protests that kicked off throughout Colombia on Monday reportedly began with violence, roadblocks and arrests in several others.
While farmers in the northeast region of Catatumbo have been on strike for months, they were joined by health workers, coffee farmers, truckers, miners and university teachers in Bogota and at least 12 of Colombia’s 32 departments.
One of the most critical situations occurred in the department of Boyaca, where according to the police strikers threw stones at passing vehicles and blocked traffic routes, a tactic the government have declared unacceptable.
The director of the National Police, General Rodolfo Palomino, said that protesters situated themselves on the Boyaca bridge, which lies on the road between the town of Chiquinquira and the department’s capital Tunja.
“At the Boyaca bridge at 2 this morning there were disturbances. Two people were arrested,” Palomino told radio station Caracol.
The director of the national police told Caracol Radio that demonstrators had also blocked the main highway connecting Colombia with Ecuador in the southwestern department of Nariño.
“In the early hours there were disturbances on the road between Ipiales and Pasto in Narino,” confirmed Palomino.
According to police in the south of Colombia, from midnight there were approximately 10,000 farmers stationed at the entrance to Ipiales, protesting for better working conditions.
The highway patrol also reported clashes on in the department of Putumayo, on the road between Mocoa and Santa Ana. Protesters burned tires and logs, whilst throwing objects into the road.
“Protesters punctured the tires of several vehicles, burned tires and cut down trees,” explained Colonel Byron Castillo, commander of the highway patrol valley.
At 10AM Monday morning however, the minister for transport reported via twitter that the area had been cleared and vehicles could pass through.
In the town of Segovia, in the department of Antioquia, 700 protesters threw firebombs and tried to burn the police station and local shops, said Police. Colombia Reports has been unable to verify any of these claims.
Antioquia police commander Colonel Gustavo Chavarro told newspaper El Tiempo that his officers were injured while attempting to quell the violence.
“There were six policemen and a civilian wounded. We are investigating further,” explained Chavarro.
In total, police said that in the first 12 hours of the strike, 26 people had been arrested and that protests were recorded in 12 of Colombia’s 32 department. However, according to local media, strikes are ongoing in all but four departments.
Tens of thousands of truckers have parked their cars on the side of the road, creating long traffic jams throughout the country.
An organizer of mining protests in Caucasia, Antioquia, told Colombia Reports the situation in that city was calm. However, Caucasia has effectively been shut off from the outside world for weeks due to roadblocks impeding passage from the Antioquia to the Cordoba departments.
In Catatumbo, where farmers have been on strike since June, strike organizers reported no alterations of public order, but also there roadblocks had been put up weeks ago already.
In the central southern Huila department, the police is impeding demonstrators to reach the locations where strikes are being organized, said the Marcha Patriotica, one of the organizing movements, early Monday.
The government has called the strikes unjustified and irresponsible, but protesters across sectors are unanimous in insisting that their attempts at civil dialogue with government officials have gone unheard or unanswered. To curb the growing social unrest, more than 16,000 policemen were deployed to prevent protesters from blocking economically important roads.
Strike organizers told Colombia Reports over the course of past week that only the miners and a small subsection of the agricultural sector (the coffee workers) have received any form of contact from the government. The government, they say, has made no effort to avoid the strikes, despite being provided with official declarations of terms and various opportunities to dialogue.
In the absence of diplomacy, the government is apparently counting on a show of force to deal with what some Colombian media sources have called the largest social movement in recent history.
The strikes are expected to expand on Tuesday when coffee growers who are still harvesting are expected to join the strikes.
- Con bloqueos y escaramuzas comenzó el paro agrario (El Universal)
- Con primeros bloqueos en Putumayo, Nariño y Valle avanza paro nacional (El Tiempo)
- Seis personas heridas en Segovia durante el inicio del paro agrario (El Colombiano)
- Hostigamientos, señalamientos y amenazas contra participantes del paro nacional agrario (Prensrural)