Thousands of Colombians were on Thursday taking to the streets to demonstrate against liberal economic policies and armed conflict amid fears from the government that the country could join the violent protest wave sweeping other Latin American countries. The nationwide marches and general strike had been called by trade unions and groups representing students, farmers, women, indigenous people and people of African descent.
The 24-hour national strike called by trade unions and social organisations had a number of objectives. The strike opposed alleged government plans to raise the pension age and to lower young people's minimum wage, though Duque has denied having such intentions.
The strike also opposed the repression and criminalisation of social protest, the assassination of social, popular and environmental leaders, and the implicit attacks of the tax, wage and labour planned by the administration of President Iván Duque.
Protesters also demanded more funding for universities, the full implementation of the 2016 peace deal with the guerrilla group FARC and stronger action to protect its former fighters and community leaders, hundreds of whom have been killed by armed groups over the past few years.
Another important demand was a reform of the Constitution with a view to guaranteeing growing resources for health, drinking water, basic sanitation and education for the Colombian people.
This was the first great social mobilisation of its kind in the country, uniting both trade unions and social organisations in a large civic front. Its organisers, the unions CUT and FECODE are long-standing proponents of a peace agreement in Colombia, and they oppose the criminalisation of social protest, demand a decent minimum wage in the country and seek the fulfilment of agreements with both works and various social sectors.
Opinion polls show that Duque's approval ratings have plunged to less than 30 per cent since he took office in August 2018.
Sources: Gulan Media and Education International