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The large demonstrations in Colombia against the president

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The large demonstrations in Colombia against the president

There were demonstrations in twenty cities in Colombia on Sunday large demonstrations against the left-wing president Gustavo Petro, elected just under two years ago. Tens of thousands of people participated in the protests organized by the opposition and various associations of doctors and nurses: there were a total of 250 thousand, as confirmed by Petro himself. Some of the issues at the center of the protests were health sector reform and peace talks with the last armed political groups present in Colombia, made problematic by various episodes of violence.

Petro is the first left-wing president in the history of Colombia: in June 2022 he achieved this result at the helm of the Pacto Histórico coalition of left-wing forces, which brings together parties and movements that were previously little represented or a minority in Colombian politics. Since the first months in government, however, the coalition has shown internal divisions, and Petro’s popularity has declined. In October 2023 the left lost the local elections almost everywhere and especially in the big cities.

(EPA/Luis Eduardo Noriega Arboleda)

Sunday’s demonstrations were the most attended since Petro has been president. In the capital Bogota, around 50 thousand people marched in the rain: many wore Colombian flags, others doctors’ coats. The Colombian healthcare system is in deep crisis, with shortages of medicines and very long waiting times for patients, but Petro’s reform, which aims to reduce the influence of private insurance companies and favor the public sector, is contested.

Petro is also criticized for the project defined as “total peace” with the armed groups still active, with the accusation of wanting to make too many concessions to the latter. The opposition is also against the pension reform: also in this case Petro’s plan is to make the sector less dependent on private companies.

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The president acknowledged that the protests were well attended in three large cities (Medellín, Bogotá and Bucaramanga) but defined the others as “weak”. He has announced other demonstrations, this time in support of the government, for May 1st.

Protests in Bogota (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

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