Colombian protesters clash with police on anniversary of unrest

BOGOTA, Colombia - Protesters clashed with police in several Colombian cities Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators marked the one-year anniversary of a mass uprising against outgoing conservative president Ivan Duque.

In Bogota, Medellin, and Popayan, hooded protesters threw stones, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks at riot officers.

Police responded with flash bombs, non-lethal ammunition, and tear gas.

One protester was wounded in the eye and several young people were detained at National University in Bogota, AFP journalists observed.

One year ago -- in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic -- Duque's government proposed a tax increase, igniting a wave of social unrest across the country that lasted until June.

Roads were blockaded and civilians engaged in bloody confrontations with security forces.

According to a UN report, at least 46 people died in last year's clashes -- 44 civilians and two police.

Next month, Colombians will choose Duque's successor, with leftist opposition candidate Gustavo Petro favored in polls.

In the run-up to the protest anniversary, Petro's coalition was divided over how involved they should be.

Although part of his leftist coalition decided to join in, the centrist labor and teachers' unions which led the protests last year chose to remain on the sidelines.

"Any violent act and riots will be the action of a criminal strategy of the right-wing to accuse Gustavo Petro and affect elections," declared Wilson Arias, a senator-elect for the leftist coalition Pacto Historico, in a tweet.