Authorities impose curfew in capital of Colombia, deploy 20k police against protesters

22 Nov

Colombian President Iván Duque instructed the authorities in Bogota to impose an overnight curfew on the entire Colombian capital, as 20,000 uniformed police were deployed to “establish order” amid anti-government protests.

“What we are facing is not a march,” said Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa, announcing the measure on Friday evening, describing the protesters as a small number of “criminals, vandals, looting, stealing and wanting to practically end our city.”

Initially, the curfew was to apply only to Bosa, Kennedy and Ciudad Bolivar – three districts on the south side of the capital, whose residents are primarily poor and working-class Bogotans. The decision to lock them down was made after violence erupted on the sidelines of mass protests against the government’s austerity policies. 

Over 200,000 people rallied in Bogota on Thursday. Another 20,000 rallied in Cali, prompting local authorities to impose a curfew there. 

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A riot police officer uses a tear gas weapon during a protest in Bogota, Colombia, November 21, 2019.
Police fire tear gas & water cannon as mass anti-govt protests in Colombia’s capital turn violent (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

“The vast majority of citizens are good, hardworking. We are not going to let a minority of criminals destroy the city,” Duque said on Friday, confirming the curfew declaration in Bogota.

“We seek to preserve order and security for all Bogotans,” the president tweeted, clarifying around 6 pm that the curfew declaration would apply to all of the capital, not just the three districts. 

Public transit system Transmilenio is also shutting down for the night. The mayor has blamed protesters for damaging stations and more than 60 buses in “widespread vandalism.”

Footage from Bogota shows riot police firing tear gas at masked protesters pelting them with rocks. As the sun sets over the Colombian capital, local media describe the situation as “very complex.”

Three people have been killed and hundreds of civilians and security personnel have been injured in the protests across Colombia, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes acknowledged on Friday. Over 100 people have been detained by the authorities so far.

The protests were precipitated by Duque’s proposed pension reforms, but have since escalated into general discontent with the government, with grievances ranging from social issues to human rights. 

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