BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian police clashed with small numbers of protesters and some public transport infrastructure was damaged in Bogota on Tuesday after a renewal of demonstrations.
Marchers held mass protests in November and December last year to demand concessions from President Ivan Duque’s right-wing government. Tuesday’s protests were the first this year, and organizers say larger ones will come in March.
The “immense majority” of the demonstrations on Tuesday were peaceful, Bogota mayor Claudia Lopez told journalists in an evening press conference, with 16 of 20 gatherings ending without violence. Some demonstrators attacked the ESMAD riot police force, she added.
“It was not the ESMAD attacking civilians, but some violent, hooded protesters attacking members of our police,” Lopez said.
Protesters were dispersed from some areas in the capital with tear gas, while others threw rocks and set tires on fire, blocking roads.
In separate remarks to journalists, Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez and national police director Oscar Atehortua said some 20,000 people marched in 103 cities and towns across the country. Ten police officers were injured.
“We have found with great sadness that these marches are taken advantage of by vandals who affect the wellbeing of citizens, especially when there are blockages and effects on mass transit systems, when there are road blockades, when private and public installations are attacked,” Gutierrez said.
Protesters have a wide variety of demands, including stepped-up efforts to stop killings of rights activists and implement a peace deal with leftist rebels. Others opposed a tax reform that was passed by Congress late last year.
Protester Diego Henao, 47, said he was demonstrating on behalf of his 15 nieces and nephews.
“I want there to be education, for there to be work,” he said. “I want the government to make to make good on the peace deal, for there to be rights, health and social justice.”
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin, Julia Symmes Cobb and Luis Jaime Acosta. Editing by Gerry Doyle)