Colombian President Ivan Duque has announced the deployment of military forces to the city of Cali after at least three people died in increasingly violent protests and talks to end the social uprising stalled.
Mr Duque repeated his assertion on Friday (local time) that the protests, which have been raging for a month, are infiltrated by illegal armed groups and promised to deploy “all intelligence capabilities” to demonstrate this.
“This deployment will almost triple our capacity throughout the province in less than 24 hours, ensuring assistance in nerve centres where we have seen acts of vandalism, violence and low-intensity urban terrorism,” said the president, speaking from Cali, the city in southwest Colombia that has become the epicentre of the nationwide antigovernment protests.
The deployment comes after Attorney-General Francisco Barbosa said an agent with the his institution was allegedly killed by civilians after opening fire.
“According to the information collected so far, he shot several people causing the death of civilians … then he ended up dead at the hands of people at the scene,” Mr Barbosa said in a statement.
Protests were held on Friday in to other parts of Colombia as the country marked a month since the start of the largest protests here in decades. More than 40 people have been killed and 2200 civilians and police injured.
The protests erupted when Mr Duque proposed a wide-ranging tax increase, but continued even after he backed off, transformed into a general outcry against growing poverty and inequality in a country where the unemployment rate doubled over the past year of pandemic.
The government and the National Strike Committee have not been able to establish the conditions to open negotiations. The protesters are demanding the government guarantee the right to social protest while Duque’s administration won’t budge from its demand that road blockades that have created widespread shortages be lifted.