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Colombians protest against government, US backs Bogota

A man waves a national flag atop a statue of the Liberator Simon Bolivar during a protest against the government of Colombian President Ivan Duque in Bogota, Colombia, on November 27, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of Colombians have flocked to the streets in the country’s capital during a second nationwide strike against the government’s economic reforms, corruption, and police violence.

Colombian unions and student groups staged the strike on Wednesday as anti-government protests continued for the seventh consecutive day in the Latin American country.

Rallying against Colombian President Ivan Duque’s economic plans, such as a rise in the pension age and a cut to the minimum wage for young people, the protesters condemned the lack of government action to stop corruption and the purported murder of hundreds of human rights activists.

The protesters demanded a rejection of the government’s tax reform proposal as well as the resignation of the 43-year-old president.

Police have used teargas and imposed curfews in Bogota and the neighboring city of Cali since violence broke out last week.

At least three people have been killed and nearly 300 arrested during clashes between the protesters and police since the start of anti-government rallies. More than 340 police officers have so far been injured.

The Colombian president on Friday promised a “national conversation” on social policies but has failed to assuage public concerns.

US backs Duque despite public anger

Meanwhile, and despite the anger on the streets in Colombia, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had expressed “steadfast support” for the Colombian president in a phone call on Wednesday.

“Secretary Pompeo reaffirmed the United States’ steadfast support for the government of Colombia in its efforts to facilitate peaceful democratic expression,” Ortagus said in a statement.

Ortagus also said Pompeo had “welcomed the national conversation that President Duque has convened in Colombia in response to recent demonstrations, recognizing it as an opportunity for the Colombian people to work together to advance peace, security, and prosperity.”

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