President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday condemned student protests and violence that have afflicted several Colombian universities in recent days and announced more police intervention.
According to a presidential communique, the head of state said in Cartanega that “General Naranjo – Director of the National Police – has been given clear instructions; where there is violence, the security forces will enter to control the situation. We will not tolerate violence in the schools of this country.” Security forces are not usually permitted to enter university grounds.
Santos also condemned the alleged infiltration of violent groups into the student protests. “We are seeing that there are well-organized violent groups that want to encourage the protesters to do the damage that they would like to do. And we are not going to allow it.” It was reported Friday that there is a “terrorist structure” within the university protests.
According to a student at National University in Bogota, the disturbances were triggered because “it seems that public universities will be financed by private entities.” Riots at the National Pedagogic University in Bogota started due to a rumour that the cafeteria services would be contracted out to a private company resulting in higher prices for the students. The president reiterated that higher education will not be privatized.
Apart from Bogota, riots were reported at the University of Antioquia in the country’s second largest city Medellin Thursday. In Pasto, one student died and at least four were injured in an explosion, allegedly caused by radical students trying to produce explosives.
“These protests have no valid reason … They say they are protesting because education is going to be privatized. That is not true. Nobody is going to privatize higher education,” said Santos.
Colombia’s public universities are frequently hit by riots and clashes between students and police. Illegal armed groups are known to have infiltrated the campuses, where according to the country’s constitution police are not allowed entry.