One protester has been killed in Cali, while riot police clashed with protesters in Bogota on Wednesday in the latest protests against higher education reforms.
According to media reports, the Cali medical student died when he fell in the street, detonating potato bombs that he was allegedly carrying. An 18-year-old protester was also injured in the explosion.
In Bogota the 30,000-strong march began peacefully but descended into clashes with the police and incidents of vandalism as the marchers reached Plaza Bolivar. Five officers were left injured after some protesters hurled stones, bottles, sticks, paint bombs, and potato bombs at riot police.
According to the authorities, protesters destroyed five ATMs, as well as smashed windows and covered local businesses with graffiti.
Police responded by dispersing the crowd from the plaza with tear gas.
According to Caracol Radio, a youth allegedly belonging to a group of skinheads that followed the march in Bogota was stabbed and hospitalized.
In Medellin, an estimated 10,000 students marched through the streets in a lively but mostly peaceful protest.
Masked protesters broke away from the main groups and covered closed buildings with graffiti-scrawled slogans against the government and the reform, while riot police were splattered with paint bombs and taunted with shouts of “pigs!” but remained aloof from the crowd.
At several points protesters set off smoke bombs to loud cheers but when a handful of masked youths began hurling rocks and kicking the shutters of Exito supermarket, the crowd responded with chants of “without violence!”
In the Medellin march Liliana Ortiz, a student at the Metropolitan Institute of Technology, told Colombia Reports, “we are opposed to Law 30 [the proposed reform] because it privatizes education and universities will lose their autonomy.”
She added that humanities subjects would “vanish” from universities because they would not be able to compete for funding with subjects that would benefit private businesses.
Ortiz said “we are going to continue with the protests until Law 30 falls.”
Pedro Restrepo, a retired University of Antioquia worker, told Colombia Reports, “education is a public service, at the service of the people, we don’t want them to hand it over to private institutions, we don’t want education to become a service for businesses and financial institutions.”
He added, “the government never listens to the Colombian people.”
According to El Colombiano, the University of Antioquia and the National University were evacuated by riot police after they received information that a group of protesters were planning to force their way in to the buildings.