Tag Archives: Colombia

Protest movement to gain momentum and see increased unrest amid rising anti-government sentiment – Colombia Analysis

Executive Summary:

The ongoing protests against President Ivan Duque’s administration have seen hundreds of thousands participating in planned and spontaneous demonstrations in Bogota, Cali, Medellin, and other urban centers.

Protests are anticipated to continue and gradually gain momentum as the national dialogue between the protesters and the administration takes place over the coming weeks, with violent unrest remaining highly likely.

The government is liable to make significant concessions in terms of policy and personnel changes to stem growing unrest and calls for President Duque to step down.

Travelers are advised to avoid nonessential travel to Bogota, Cali, Medellin, and other urban centers over the coming weeks due to the high potential for unrest.

MAX has strong on-ground capabilities in Central and South America, for support or evacuation. Please contact us at [email protected] or +44 20-3540-0434.

Please be advised:

Following nationwide mass protests against President Ivan Duque that began on November 21 leaving three dead and 272 injured on the day, the mayor of Bogota declared a curfew for the city until November 23. The protests were called for by several groups, including labor unions, LGBT activists, pensioners, healthcare workers, education workers, students, and indigeneous groups against the administration’s policies.

Apart from planned demonstrations, several spontaneous rallies by citizens banging pots and pans, a traditional Latin American form of protest called ‘cacerolazo’, have also been recorded.

On November 21, the Ministry of the Interior reportedly issued a decree to enact increased security measures during the day, including closing international borders and banning the carrying of firearms.

Flight cancelations were reported at Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport (BOG) until November 23 and more than half of the 138 Transmilenio bus stations have been destroyed amid the unrest. Thousands continue to gather at President Duque’s private residence in Usaquen, chanting anti-government slogans.

On November 23, deployed riot police from the Escuadron Movil Antidisturbios (ESMAD) shot an 18-year old student, leaving him in critical condition with life changing injuries. Subsequent protests took on an increasingly violent tone, prompting the Attorney General to open an investigation into the case.

Reports from November 24 indicate that nearly 300 officers have been injured since the start of the violent protests. Separately, a bomb attack was recorded at a police station in Santander de Quilichao, Cauca on November 23 which left three officers dead, although no group has officially claimed responsibility for the attack.

President Duque announced the beginning of a national dialogue in Colombia on November 24 “to strengthen the social agenda in the country”. Mayors and elected governors from across the country will take place in the dialogue, as well as labor union leaders.

Assessments & Forecast

Protests to continue, increase in intensity over coming weeks

Against the backdrop of ongoing social protest movements across Latin America, such as in Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, the Colombian protests are liable to gradually gain momentum and continue calling for President Duque’s resignation. The protests in Bogota are expected to be the most well-attended, with turnouts in the hundreds of thousands, and mid-to-high tens of thousands anticipated in other urban centers.

Protesters are likely to use Molotov cocktails and conduct targeted vandalism and arson attacks on public infrastructure, with the ESMAD likely to respond using forcible dispersal measures such as tear gas, rubber pellets, water cannons, and possibly live ammunition. Roadblocks are likely to be erected on key highways nationwide with severe travel disruptions anticipated to be witnessed at ports of entry and border crossings as well, particularly if the curfews continue. The anticipated delays in negotiations and policy changes are likely to stoke such protests and contribute to a rise in disruptive acts.

In Bogota, potential protest locations include government buildings and past focal points of unrest such as Parque Nacional, Plaza Bolivar, and President Duque’s residence at Calle 145. The curfew in Bogota could be extended further if instances of unrest are continued to be recorded.

Focal Points of Protests in Bogota

Government expected to make major concessions during national dialogue

Given intense backlash against the ESMAD’s handling of the protests, which has contributed to a rise in anti-government sentiment, as well as long-held grievances among the public over economic policies and the peace process, the national dialogue is likely to be protracted and result in the administration having to make several concessions to the opposition and civil society groups.

Specifically, as seen in the case of Chile, President Duque is likely to make several personnel changes to stem calls for his resignation, to which he is unlikely to agree. In particular, high ranking officials in the departments of health, defense, education, and his cabinet are likely to be replaced, possibly with individuals holding slightly more left-wing views. This is likely to anger his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, and his supporters, increasing the likelihood of political stalemates in the days to come.

In addition, President Duque may agree to restart dialogue with the Ejercito Liberacion Nacional (ELN) and other Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)-dissident groups in the face of intense pressure from indigenous communities who argue that the failed peace talks have resulted in increased violence in their regions. Calls for such a scenario have been bolstered further following the resignation of former Minister of Defense Guillermo Botermo on November 6 over a failed raid on a FARC-dissident camp that led to the deaths of eight minors and against the backdrop of the FARC rearmament announcement on August 29.

Recommendations

Travelers are advised to avoid nonessential travel to Bogota, Cali, Medellin, and other urban centers over the coming weeks due to the high potential for unrest.

Allot for disruptions to all forms of travel and public services over the coming days due to protests and the associated labor action. Reconfirm itineraries prior to air travel.

Remain cognizant of authorities’ updates regarding curfews and possible road closures. In the event that a security checkpoint is encountered, act respectfully and patiently, while cooperating fully with security personnel.