Nationwide strikes and demonstrations organized by the National Committee of Unemployment were held in Colombia on Tuesday, January 21, with incidents of violence occurring in some cities. According to government officials, an estimated 20,000 people in 103 cities and towns participated in the protests. In the capital Bogotá, 20 separate and largely peaceful rallies were held, except in two cases where police clashed with “hooded men.” According to media reports, some protesters threw rocks at the police officers and set tires on fire to block roads. Security forces used tear gas in some areas to disperse the demonstrators.
Large street protests also took place in Cali, Medellín, and Barranquilla, among other cities. In Medellín, people were peacefully marching until a group of unidentified men began attacking police officers, who responded by throwing tear gas at the crowds. At least 94 people were arrested throughout the country during the demonstrations and ten police officers were wounded.
Further nationwide strike and protests are expected in the coming months. The National Committee of Unemployment is planning to hold another national meeting on Thursday, January 30, and Friday, January 31, to plan future mobilizations. According to a statement from the group, a nationwide general strike is likely to be held in March.
Several unions and civil society groups have been organizing nationwide protests and strikes since November 21 to protest the policies of President Iván Duque's administration, including the alleged support of unpopular economic plans and the perceived lack of government action to counter killings of human rights activists and rein in corruption. Heightened security measures were previously approved across Colombia in anticipation of the protests, permitting local authorities to implement curfews and restrict civilian movement.
Individuals in Colombia are advised to avoid all protests as a precaution, monitor the situation, and obey instructions issued by local authorities.