Reports indicate that during the evening hours of November 8 several violent incidents were recorded in Bogota as student protests unfolded over a budgetary bill, which demonstrators claim will lead to a shortage of funds for public education. At least 3,000 demonstrators caused road blockages and significant traffic disruptions near the intersection between Calle 100 Avenue and the Norte Highway. While protesters scuffled with security forces, throwing stones at agents, riot police evicted protesters with tear gas. Acts of vandalism were witnessed in different points of the city. Noteworthily, a hooded assailant threw a molotov cocktail at a police officer guarding a radio station located in Caracas Avenue and Calle 37 (Street). Demonstrators had previously painted graffiti and thrown stones at the building during another student protest on October 10. The protests on November 8, which reportedly began outside universities during afternoon hours, initially transpired peacefully. Government sources reported that eight policemen were injured and 22 protesters were apprehended. Subsequently, government sources indicated that a bill would be presented before Congress to harden punishments against individuals assaulting security forces.
Further protests on November 15: Student groups and the Workers’ Central Unit (CUT), the largest labor union in the country, have published statements calling for peaceful protests on November 15 at a nationwide level. In Bogota, demonstrators will gather at 10:00 (local time) at Parque Nacional, from where they will march to Plaza de Bolívar (Square) in the city center.
The events on November 8 marked the fourth wave of student protests in a month amid an ongoing spat between education workers, students, and the government over the education budget. Despite a limited number of incidents, previous events largely transpired peacefully. In this sense, the latest protests likely devolved into violence due to the larger scale of the demonstrations, especially after participants blocked a major highway in the city. Attendance to protest actions was likely boosted by failure in negotiations between student leaders and government representatives. On November 6 the former withdrew from talks with the Ministry of Education after officials purportedly stated that no funds were available to meet the students’ demands. Considering that the latest demonstrations have seemingly attracted radicalized elements, grievances over the education budget are likely to deteriorate further. With this in mind, whilst groups calling for protests on November 15 are asking supporters to demonstrate peacefully, the potential for violence persists.
Those operating or residing in Colombia, and especially in Bogota on November 15 and over the coming days are advised to exercise vigilance due to potential for unrest amid protests over the education budget.