Protesters rally in second national strike in less than a week in honor of Dilan Cruz, 18, who died after being hit by police teargas canister

Colombian unions and student groups have held their second national strike in less than week, in honor of a dead demonstrator and to protest against rumored government economic plans, corruption and police violence.

The series of protests began last week with a 250,000-person march and a nationwide strike.

Demonstrators are rallying against economic plans such as a rise in the pension age and a cut to the minimum wage for young people that the president, Ivn Duque, denies supporting, as well what they say is a lack of government action to stop corruption and the murder of hundreds of human rights activists.

Marches have attracted thousands of peaceful demonstrators, but Thursday and Friday were also marked by the destruction of mass transit stations, curfews in Cali and Bogot and the deaths of three people in connection with alleged looting.

Thousands massed in Bogotas central Plaza de Bolivar in front of congress and a block from the presidential palace on Wednesday afternoon. Additional marchers were on their way to join them.

Were heading to the Plaza de Bolivar to shout to this government that we have many needs, that we are demanding our rights, that we are tired of them not listening, said accountant Oliverio Zambrano, 33, as he headed to the plaza in a group of about 40 others.

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A student spits fire during a protest for Dilan Cruz in Bogot, Colombia, on 26 November. Photograph: Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Saturdays marches took a dark turn when 18-year-old protester Dilan Cruz was fatally injured by a teargas canister fired by the ESMAD riot police.

Cruz died on Monday and has become a symbol for protesters, who allege the ESMAD is using excessive force in its crowd dispersion efforts. His private memorial service was held on Wednesday morning, and his family has called for nonviolence.

The National Strike Committee, composed of major unions and student organizations, is demanding the government dissolve the force and purify the police.

Talks between the committee and the government have stalled amid union demands Duque meet with them without the presence of business leaders or other groups.

The committee has also demanded a rejection of the governments tax reform proposal, which includes a cut in business duties.

Duque announced several changes to the proposal this week at the cost of about $930m including the return of value added tax to the poorest 20% of Colombians and lower contributions to healthcare by minimum wage pensioners.

But his promise to hold a social issues-focused national dialogue through March has sparked derision among marchers and opposition politicians, who see it as a tepid response to growing discontent.

Duques administration has been plagued by problems during his nearly 16 months in office, including a combative congress, low approval ratings and unsuccessful legislative efforts.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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