As the national strike in Colombia began day 43 with an unsuccessful statue toppling of Queen Isabel I by members of the Misak indigenous tribe, and that resulted in police intervening to open up the main road that leads to El Dorado airport, the so-called “siege of Bogotá” was perpetrated by no more than 3,000 protestors (according to the district’s Government Secretariat).
As the city of eight million faced mobility gridlock given road blockades, and violent confrontations between anti-riot squadrons and “first line” anti-government protesters, many armed with improvised bats, shields and ski goggles to defend their makeshift barricades from water cannons and roiling tear gas, the “siege” quickly morphed into another day of senseless vandalism, much of it, targeting Bogotá’s already smashed public transportation infrastructure.
With much of social media trailing the Paro Nacional, and which for the majority of Colombians has become synonymous with mob intimidation and vandalism, the country, on Wednesday, also reached a grim milestone in 15 months of the pandemic with 550 confirmed deaths – highest per-day toll on record. According to the daily bulletin from the Ministry of Health of the day’s 550 victims, 139 occurred in Bogotá, followed by the departments of Antioquia (69); Santander (55); Valle del Cauca and Cundinamarca (50); Cordoba (24); Boyacá (16); Atlántico and Meta (15); Cesar, Norte de Santander and Tolima (13); Nariño (12), and Risaralda (10)
The country also confirmed 24,233 new cases of coronavirus infection, with Bogotá accounting for 9,158. A dangerously high number given that ICU occupation for COVID-19 patients stands at 97.6% – or 58 beds available of the city’s total capacity 2,261.
Colombia also received on Wednesday a new batch of 538,200 Pfizer vaccines as part of the bilateral agreement with that U.S pharmaceutical. With this delivery, the country surpassed 17.7 million doses, of which 12 million have been given as first doses, and 3.5 allocated for second doses.
With a mass walk-in vaccination center set up in the capital’s Corferias trade and exhibition grounds, and Ministry of Health confirming record daily vaccinations (318,000 persons for first or second doses), Bogotanos are increasingly weary, frustrated and angered by a “strike” that has no resolution in sight given that the National Strike Committee unilaterally broke-off negotiations with the government of President Iván Duque. And while, Bogotá Mayor Claudia López has called for both sides to reach some negotiated settlement, the destruction of public and private property by hordes of organized criminals continues, as well as civil unrest that on Wednesday resulted in 68 injured, including 36 members of the police.