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Duque promises social reforms as 3 dead in Colombia protests

  • Published at 09:16 am November 23rd, 2019
Colombia_protest_curfew
A demonstrator bangs a pan during a protest on the second day of a national strike, in Bogota, Colombia, November 22, 2019. Reuters

Demonstrators sang the national anthem while banging pots and pans 

Protesters picketed the home of Colombian President Ivan Duque on Friday, defying a curfew and the leader's promises of a "national conversation" on social policies following massive anti-government demonstrations that have left three dead and dozens wounded.

"Starting next week, I will launch a national conversation to strengthen the current social policy agenda, working in a united way with medium- and long-term vision, which will allow us to close the social gaps," Duque has said in a televised speech earlier in the day.

"This conversation will take place regionally with all the social and political sectors. I will use electronic media and participatory mechanisms... so that we can all build a meaningful path of reform." 

The popularity of Duque's right-wing government -- a key ally of the United States -- has been on the wane since his election 18 months ago, as it deals with hosting 1.4 million refugees from neighboring Venezuela's economic meltdown as well as the complex fallout of a 2016 peace deal with FARC rebels and rampant drug trafficking. 

Hundreds of thousands of Colombians took to the streets in Bogota and other cities on Thursday to protest Duque's economic, social and security policies, as part of a nationwide general strike.

There were arrests and clashes as trade unions, students, opposition parties and the South American country's indigenous organizations vented their anger.

Duque's statement Friday came shortly after Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa declared a nighttime curfew in the capital, following clashes between protesters and police in the southern part of the city of seven million earlier in the day.

The president said he was stepping up the police presence and ordering the "deployment of joint patrols of police and army in the most critical places."

But that did not stop hundreds of people from showing up outside the president's house in Bogota, singing the national anthem while banging pots and pans in a form of protest that is common in parts of Latin America, though not in Colombia.

The protesters dispersed peacefully about one hour after the 9pm (0200 GMT on Saturday) curfew began.