Clashes mark the return to protests in Colombia

BOGOTA: Riot police firing tear gas and stunning grenades clashed with protesters throwing stones in Bogotá on Tuesday as protests against the government resumed Colombia , leaving 11 injured and almost 100 arrested.

Protests also took place in other major cities, such as Cali and, throughout the country, authorities registered 165 marches, demonstrations or roadblocks, said police chief Oscar Atehortua.

Most of the arrests were in Bogotá and 10 of the 11 injured were police officers, he said.

The events in Bogotá began late in the afternoon as a traditional demonstration of hitting the pot of the common type in Latin America and at the end of last year when protests broke out against the government of conservative President Ivan Duque, 17 months.

What began as a general strike has become a wider display of discontent over their economic policies, unemployment, political corruption and drug-financed violence.

Security forces were still deployed in Bogotá's old town when Tuesday night fell. Mayor Claudia López said the day had been mostly peaceful, although in some neighborhoods small groups became violent.

In the center of the city, a 60-year-old woman named Flor Calderón stood between them and the riot police, asking the officers to allow the procession to move forward.

This is a fight for you and your children's children because this country is a disaster, he told police, waving a white flag.

Lopez, who took office on January 1, has established procedures to try to prevent violence in demonstrations, which have left four people dead since they began on November 21.

About 500 people were injured and about 200 arrested.

Many protesters feel that efforts to end the decades-long armed conflict with the country's FARC rebels have slowed progress in other areas of society.

They also want Duque to dismantle the feared ESMAD riot police, much criticized for their harsh response to the demonstrations.

Duque has yielded to some of the other tax reform demands, announcing the reimbursement of the Value Added Tax to the poorest 20 percent of the population and benefits for companies that hire young people.

The president defended what he called a national conversation with various sectors of society to try to find a way out of the confrontation.

We want to listen to all sectors to be able to make proposals, where we can solve many of the country's needs that emerged years ago, Duque said.

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