At least 10 people died on Friday in the city of Cali amid anti-government protests which started a month ago in Colombia and have met a harsh response from authorities.
“Ten people” are dead, “this is the toll we have this morning” in events linked to the demonstrations, Cali’s security secretary Carlos Rojas told Caracol radio. Police said eight of the 10 were shot dead. Earlier in the day, Colombian President Iván Duque announced the deployment of military forces to the city of Cali to quell the protests.
“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.
Juliette de Rivero, representative in Colombia of the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, called for an end to violence, also citing cases of “civilians shooting” in Cali.
Protests were held in other parts as well as the country marked a month since the start of the largest protests in the country decades. The protests erupted when 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.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Colombia’s vice-president Marta Lucia Ramirez in Washington on Friday.
Blinken “expressed his concern and condolences for the loss of life during recent protests in Colombia and reiterated the unquestionable right of citizens to protest peacefully”, according to spokesman Ned Price.
Colombia’s finance ministry estimates protests and roadblocks have cost the country $2.68 billion, with the roadblocks leading to shortages of food and other supplies, boosting prices, and disrupting operations in the country’s main seaport as well as for hundreds of companies.