Colombian government and unions renew talks but no deal found

Union leaders and Colombian government officials met for the second time on Thursday this week, but failed to reach an agreement to end protests against President Ivan Duque’s economic and social policies.

The meeting took place just a day after a nationwide strike organized by unions, students and rights groups drew thousands of protesters.

“We remain deeply in disagreement with the government on the composition of the discussions,” Diogene Orjuela, head of the Central Workers’ Union (CUT), told reporters after the meeting.

“In addition, the government has taken a step back by qualifying the discussions as exploratory. We continue to consider that this is a negotiating table between the government and the national strike committee, to discuss the 13 demands that have been raised, ”he said. .

Demands from protest leaders include the government to take more action to end the killings of human rights activists, better implement a peace deal with leftist rebels and disband ESMAD riot police, whom they accuse of excessive force during the demonstrations.

FILE – Indigenous Guard members and students demonstrate during an anti-government demonstration in Bogota, Colombia, November 29, 2019.

Protesters also oppose a Duque tax reform that would cut taxes on businesses, and reject other proposals that Duque denies supporting, such as alleged efforts to raise the retirement age and lower the minimum wage for workers. youth.

The government on Thursday asked the leaders of the protest to clarify their demands.

“The government must know the full depth of these demands in order to be able to discuss the agreements that can and cannot be concluded,” said the head of the presidency Diego Molano. “What we cannot do is build a negotiation based on 13 different topics without clearly knowing each request.”

The protests, which were largely peaceful, saw looting and attacks on transportation systems in the early days, leading the mayors of Cali and Bogotá to institute curfews.

Five people have died in connection with the protests, which followed upheaval in other Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia.

The government and protest leaders have agreed to a new meeting next week.

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