Colombia braces for anti-government protests aimed at economic reforms

A nationwide strike will grip Colombia today; hundreds of thousands of unionists, students and indigenous are expected to participate. The

colombia protests

Photo: AFP

A nationwide strike will grip Colombia today; hundreds of thousands of unionists, students and indigenous are expected to participate.

The strike is against President Ivan Duque’s proposed economic reforms, specifically reductions to Colombia’s $12 billion social spending budget.

In light of other protest movements across the region turning violent, Duque’s government has heightened security measures ahead of today’s strike. Notably, the army has been mobilised to support police forces in major cities.

The response by security forces will determine whether today’s strike turns violent. A crackdown will almost certainly escalate the situation and could turn the strike into a prolonged movement. Rogue elements seeking to incite violence to encourage instability could complicate efforts to ensure the strike remains largely peaceful.

In preparation for this possibility, Bogota has closed its borders and deported 15 Venezuelans suspected of trying to escalate violence, likely on behalf of the Caracas government. Sustained instability in Colombia benefits Venezuela because at worst it forces Bogota to focus on domestic issues rather than exert pressure on its regime and at best may force political change.

However, if the strike does turn violent, Duque will likely blame Caracas for increasing instability across the region, ratcheting up pressure for Nicolas Maduro’s ouster.

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