Protesters march against economic, social policies in Colombian cities

Workers and students participate in a protest against the social and economic policies of Colombia's President Ivan Duque, in Bogota, Colombia November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Nathalia Angarita

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Thousands of workers and students protested in Colombia on Thursday against the social and economic policies of President Ivan Duque, despite restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters marched peacefully in the country's main cities and tried to respect requirements such as the use of face masks and maintaining social distancing.

"This is a government that neither discusses nor negotiates, which means we need to maintain protests. The president is deaf, blind and mute in the face of other opinions," Diogenes Orjuela, president of the Central Union of Workers (CUT), told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Protesters' demands include improving health coverage and education, establishing a basic income for the unemployed and those without pensions, as well as help for small businesses, the union leader said.

"As long as the government upholds its attitude of no dialogue or negotiation, protests will continue throughout the country," Orjuela said, announcing new marches for December and next year.

Duque's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The interior ministry declined to comment.

In September the death of a man following his detention by police saw a wave of protests in Bogota and satellite city Soacha, in which 13 people died.

Marches last year were mostly peaceful but saw looting of shopping centers and attacks against public transport in the first few days, which lead the government to declare a curfew in Bogota and Cali.

Youth Dilan Cruz died after being struck in the head by a projectile fired by police during a protest last November, converting him into a symbol of protests than continued into the middle of December last year.

Protests on Thursday in Bogota, Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga were peaceful, organizers said.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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