Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos took to the airwaves on Sunday to stress his dedication to attending ongoing and apparent escalating social unrest in the countryside that cost the life of a policeman the night before.
In a live speech, the president said that “this government has defended and will defend the farmers and will continue to have a streamlined dialogue to be able to do much more about the future of the farmers,” said Santos.
The president’s words contradict an apparent escalation of violence in the countryside where one policeman was killed in an attack on the police unit allegedly trying to remove one of the dozens of roadblocks put up throughout the country by hundreds of thousands of striking farmers, miners and truckers.
The death of the policeman is the third this week; One motorcyclist was killed on Thursday after crashing while trying to avoid a roadblock and one elderly man died while his ambulance was held up by another roadblock on Friday.
According to General Rodolfo Palomino, director of the National Police, 160 of his men have been injured in clashes with demonstrators during the first week of protests.
The Marcha Patriotica, a leftist political movement supporting the accumulation of strikes, said Friday that 64 protesters had been injured. French press agency AFP reported on Sunday that 10 indigenous protesters in the southwest of the country had been injured when stepping on a landmine while Venezuelan television network TeleSur reported another three injured protesters in the south of the country.
Official sources said that 178 protesters have been arrested.
Meanwhile, videos of alleged police brutality that had been shared on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter forced the National Police director to call for an investigation.
“I have paid close attention to the complaints of excesses by some officers. I will order an investigation of each of the cases,” said Palomino.
The High Commissioner of the United Nations in Colombia called for “calm and dialogue” and urged to “respect the rights of all people: protesters, armed forces and citizens who do not take part in the strike.”
The strikes began on Monday with demonstrations throughout the country. While no large mobilizations or major disturbances occurred in Colombia’s largest cities, hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in smaller cities and alongside highways to reject the government’s agricultural, mining and energy policy and the negative effects the protesters claim they have on rural life and economy.
While in spite of promises, no accord was reached with any of the striking sectors. Santos reiterated in a speech earlier on Sunday that “everything is completely under control.”