Claudia López lifts all restrictions in Bogotá, Paro Nacional protests in peace

Ten months after the National Strike Committee mobilized demonstrations against the economic and social policies of the government of President Iván Duque and which turned violent on November 21, mass gatherings were banned with the strict lockdowns that went into effect mid-March with the National Health Emergency.

With a slate of more than 100 grievances presented to the national government last year by the country’s three largest trade unions, as well as educators and students groups, one month after Mayor Claudia López ended rotating lockdowns in the capital, the Committee announced the return of Paro Nacional for September 21, and called their supporters to demonstrate peacefully. The first official Paro Nacional since the coronavirus outbreak on March 6, comes also with the lifting of all restrictions in Bogotá after six months in which residents were subject to a strict quarantine, gradual reopening of authorized economic sectors, a gender-based mobility measure (Pico y género) and lastly, an identity card one: Pico y cédula.

The return of the license plate rule Pico y Placa (Monday – Friday) and that exempts healthcare professionals, comes with the official reopening of every sector of the city’s economy, including theatres, gyms, casinos, banquet halls, churches and restaurants. Although restaurants could only attend guests from Thursday to Sunday in venues with terraces and outdoor seating, as of Monday, Mayor López also eliminated restrictions on which days of the week sectors could directly attend clients, but all retail and commercial outlets must start work from 10:00 am onward.

Bogotá’s “new normal” has renewed outrage over the killing of human rights activists, more than 50 massacres perpetrated in 2020, many in which youngsters have been assassinated by illegal armed groups, and use of excessive force by the National Police. A week after violence erupted over the death of 43-year old Javier Ordoñez while in police custody, resulting in the destruction of more than 30 command posts, Mayor López also called for peaceful protest. “We respect the right to protest in a legitimate way, without violence and without destroying Bogotá,” remarked López, adding that “any act of violence that puts someone’s life at risk, ESMAD (Anti-Riot Squad), will intervene.”

Mayor López’s warning that violence will not be tolerated during the marches of September 21 draws the line for the Paro Nacional Committee to guarantee the legitimacy of their petitions, and which have been overshadowed by senseless acts of vandalism. Mayor López confirmed that as of midday, 11 marches were being conducted peacefully, yet advised residents to return home by 7 pm to avoid disruptions to their mobility. As a precautionary move, the city’s mass transit system, TransMilenio, closes at 8 pm.

Anti-government rallies are also taking place outside Colombian consulates in Brussels, Paris, London and Toronto.