Colombian President Ivan Duce yesterday called for the removal of roadblocks that have multiplied after ten days of bloody anti-government protests, which have been violently suppressed in several cities across the country.
"Yes to dialogue, yes to construction, but certainly not to roadblocks, because roadblocks are not peaceful, they violate other people's rights," he told reporters at the presidential palace in Bogota.
The Conservative president, who said 733 roadblocks had been set up since the protests began on April 28, called for an end to such actions affecting the supply of many cities, especially fuel, medicine and food.
"The rejection of these acts of violence must be unequivocal," he added.
He made the request on the eve of his first meeting with youth representatives, the most active in the protests, which requires a change of direction from the government.
Under pressure, as the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated the financial crisis, the government began a series of meetings with various sectors of society, starting with political parties, judges and the media.
Duke reiterated yesterday that he was also prepared to meet with the national strike committee, which has begun mobilizing and bringing together various sectors.
"We are ready to sit down with the strike committee (…) to listen to them (…) listen to those who are protesting, those who are not protesting and to resolve this situation," the Colombian president said.
According to government figures, the violence has resulted in 26 deaths, with eight of the deaths unrelated to the protests, and 1.506 injured, including 680 civilians and 826 police, while 90 people are missing.
Duke expressed his "pain" for the victims and defended his "legal right" to peaceful demonstration, promising "zero tolerance" for police abuses.
The crackdown on protesters has drawn sharp criticism from the international community. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected in an announcement yesterday these "external positions that have no objectivity and that seek to worsen the polarization".
The government, for its part, has denounced the incursion of armed groups into the mobilizations, such as National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas and opponents of the former FARC guerrilla group, who reject the 2016 peace deal.