Support for a national strike on Wednesday skyrocketed on Tuesday amid extreme tensions with the national government.
Defense Minister Diego Molano said he would “guarantee the security and peace of mind of Colombians,” leaving it unclear whether he would respect the right to protest.
Bogota‘s security secretary explained that a surprise order by a Bogota judge to revoke permissions for protests was nonsensical as protesters don’t need permission to protest.
The only consequence of court order was that authorities were not allowed to facilitate the construction of a stage on the central Bolivar Square, according to the authorities in the capital.
Mayor Claudia Lopez had already said that she would deploy controversial riot police unit ESMAD in the event the protests turned violent.
According to Bogota council member Heidy Sanches of opposition party Colombia Humana, the court order issued by controversial magistrate Nelly Villamizar was “unconstitutional and illegal.”
Tensions on social media escalated as citizens called to indefinitely continue the originally one-day strike and day of protests.
The president of labor union CUT, Francisco Maltes, stressed on Twitter that, according to the Constitutional Court, no authority had the right no remove citizens’ right to protest “not even in a state of siege” and would continue the 53 protests planned in the capital
Leading opposition Senator Gustavo Petro urged protesters to maintain the peace, claiming that “the supporters of the tax reform” opposed by the National Strike Committee “want violence,” according to the presidential candidate.
Human rights organizations published legal self-defense instructions that would allow civilians to protect themselves against police abuse.
The strike organizers have consistently demanded the withdrawal of a controversial tax reform proposed by President Ivan Duque and policies “for life, peace and democracy.”
Duque’s attempt to seek a court’s approval to marginalize the anti-government protests come after a Supreme Court ruling that ordered the government to come up with measures that would prevent a repetition of the violent repression of protests in 2019.
The far-right government has been reluctant to adhere to this ruling that banned any executive action to persecute protest organizers or police violence to quell peaceful protest.
The police brutality and Duque’s refusal to negotiate with the strike organizers sunk the president’s approval rating from which he never recovered.
Like in 2019, however, the president’s attempt to obtain more authoritarian power are being undermined by Duque’s sometimes awe-inspiring that effectively has eroded his authority.
The president’s latest move appears to further threaten governability in Colombia, particularly in in areas where illegal armed groups are replacing state authority.