BOGOTA – Groups of feminists, Christians, students, retirees and members of the LGBTI community joined together on Monday in downtown Bogota to provide a healthy dose of diversity on the fifth day of peaceful protests against the policies of Colombian President Ivan Duque.
The gathering place was the National Park, where thousands congregated to continue what began last Thursday as a “national strike” called by labor unions to protest potential labor, pension and tax reforms, among other things, and which have morphed into a gigantic civic movement.
The demonstrators also gathered to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and to support 18-year-old Dilan Cruz, who sustained a serious head wound on Saturday when a stun grenade was fired by the ESMAD riot police in the downtown area.
Also on hand was a group of eight women belonging to the Evangelical Christian Church and carrying signs reading “Injustice also hurts Jesus,” “The Lord gives strength to his people, the Lord blesses them with peace,” “Would you like to know where the church is? It’s us!” and “We can’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ by ignoring injustice in this world.”
“We feel that we musn’t remain silent in the face of the injustice, the pension, labor and tax reform that the government is going to push, and the backtracking on social guarantees and human rights this government is considering for Colombians,” Estela Colmenares, one of the demonstrators, told EFE.
She said this is the second time she and her seven church companions have gathered in downtown Bogota to express their disagreement with President Duque, whom she asked to call on “all organizations for social dialogue” including “faith communities.”
“We’re social actors who also have the right to be at the dialogue table and we feel that the way out is through dialogue,” she said.
As on the four previous days of protests, students took to the streets to demand that the government fulfill the signed agreements and measures against corruption at the public universities.
“The crisis in the public universities has been going on for a long time and as a student I see many problems within the university that prevent me from taking advantage of all the tools I’m being given,” Sebastian Trujillo, who is studying Physical Education at the Universidad Pedagogica, told EFE.
Trujillo said that the only thing they are asking for is “better space for education and to have a free country.”
Also, blaring over the loudspeakers from a yellow truck in the vicinity was the Socialist International anthem as another group of young people marched amid the turmoil along central 7th Avenue carrying a Colombian flag.
Denis Cruz, the sister of the young man who on Monday is hovering between life and death at San Ignacio Hospital, represented him on Monday at the graduation ceremony at Ricaurte High School, in the southern part of the capital, where she received his diploma for him.
There, she read a short speech in which she thanked the school’s teachers, administrators and students for their support for her and her family since her brother was wounded on Saturday.
“What we want most at this time is for him to recover. We want absolutely nothing else. We’re at his side ... and the only thing we’re asking you to do is ... to keep him in your prayers because he’s going to get out of this. He’s a strong man, an intelligent boy,” she said in a halting voice full of emotion.