RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – “We all have the right to express our voice, to disagree … And this should not cost us our lives!” read a banner at a peaceful protest held on Wednesday in front of the Colombian Embassy in Panama to demand Colombian President Ivan Duque to “stop the massacre” of demonstrators in the streets of the Andean country.
Dozens of Panamanian trade unionists and Colombian residents in the Central American country stood at the entrance of the modern building where the diplomatic legation is located in the Panamanian capital, with signs that read “No to health reform, No to police abuse, S.O.S. Colombia”.
“We are in solidarity with those people who are resisting, and we demand the Colombian Embassy to convey to their president that he has to stop the massacre,” said Jorge Guzman, member of the National Coordination of the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (Frenadeso) of Panama.
President Duque “has to respect life, he has to get the army off the streets and the murderous police,” said the union leader, who stressed that “the Colombian people have international support,” and this peaceful protest is demonstrating this.
A woman dressed in a typical Colombian costume with the yellow, blue and red colors of the Andean country’s flag was sitting on the ground sobbing at the “impotence of not being” with her family in Colombia, whom she “wholeheartedly” supports from afar, as she told Efe.
Johan Montoya, a Colombian citizen living in Panama, said that in Colombia, there is “a massacre against the youth simply because they are demanding transparency in the political and economic decisions” taken by the Government of the country, where the people “are starving” because there is a disproportion in the distribution of wealth.
Faced with the legitimate right to protest and to aspire to a “country for all, the repressive forces are completely overwhelmed in Colombia”, said Montoya, and warned that “the bad actions” of a group that has “damaged private property” in the midst of demonstrations is no excuse for the authorities to respond to the masses with “firearms”.
“It seems that we are really at war because of the disproportion that is taking place in the streets, with tanks, with helicopters… it is a civil society for God’s sake, they are armed with sticks and stones so that they are responding to them in such a strong way,” he added.
Thousands of Colombians took to the streets again on Wednesday at the beginning of the second “national strike” of protest against the Duque government, after a week of intense demonstrations and violence with dozens of deaths.
The protests began last April 28 against a tax reform, which has already been withdrawn, and as of Wednesday have left, according to the Ombudsman’s Office, 19 dead, a figure that social organizations such as the NGO Temblores raise to 31, mostly attributed to police violence, mainly in Cali, the third-largest city in the country.
The Ombudsman’s Office denounced on Tuesday that in the last week, at least 89 people have disappeared, without specifying the circumstances, of which only two have been found.
At least 72 civilians and 19 police officers were injured in last night’s riot in Bogota, in which vandals attacked at least 23 police stations, one of which was set on fire with ten officers inside, on the eve of a new “national strike” against the Duque government.