Skip to main content

Colombian president deploys 50,000 troops after violent protests

By Fernando Ramos and Rafael Romo, CNN
August 30, 2013 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
Students dodge police water canons as they protest in downtown Bogota, Colombia, on August 29, 2013.
Students dodge police water canons as they protest in downtown Bogota, Colombia, on August 29, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 50,000 soldiers will patrol the streets of Bogota, Colombia, after violent protests
  • Vandals have smashed windows at foreign businesses, banks and restaurants
  • President Santos says vandals infiltrated protests by farmers seeking government support
  • Colombian analyst: "In general, this social movement has not been infiltrated"

(CNN) -- Fifty thousand soldiers will patrol the streets of Bogota, Colombia, after violent protests that left at least two people dead and dozens injured, President Juan Manuel Santos announced Friday.

Speaking on Colombian national television, the president said he may also send troops to other locations around Colombia that have seen violent clashes between protesters and security forces.

Read more on CNN Espanol

CNN affiliate Caracol showed video of violent clashes between riot police and protesters in downtown Bogota, as well as images of other groups of protesters who blocked major highways connecting the Colombian capital with surrounding cities.

Vandals have smashed windows at foreign businesses, banks and fast-food restaurants. They also damaged billboards and security cameras at bus stations around the capital.

The protests have their roots in a strike that started on August 19. Farmers from around Colombia are demanding government support and credits, saying they can't compete against powerful agricultural businesses that benefit from free trade agreements.

Farmers who traveled to the capital to protest were joined by labor unions and student groups in marches and protests throughout Bogota.

Santos said those who staged acts of vandalism and attacked businesses are not legitimate farmers voicing their demands, but vandals taking advantage of the situation to loot and steal.

"Unfortunately, several of these protests were infiltrated and taken advantage of by vandals whose sole purpose is to create chaos and destruction and damage public and private property," Santos said. "There's no protest that merits the loss of human life, even if the demands being made are legitimate."

The Colombian president offered a reward equal to $2,600 for information that allows authorities to identify and capture those responsible for the acts of vandalism and attacks against security forces.

Ariel Avila, a Colombian political analyst, told CNN that guerrilla groups have tried to infiltrate the protests and have participated in acts of sabotage including burning buses and some other acts seen in recent days.

"But in general, this social movement has not been infiltrated," Avila said. "Here in the country's central region, in the provinces of Cundinamarca" -- which surrounds Bogota -- "and Boyaca, there has not been guerrilla activity in at least 15 years, so what the president said is not entirely accurate."

Avila, a former professor at the National University of Colombia and the current director of an organization that monitors armed conflicts in Colombia, said that the farmers strike is causing shortages of food products in the capitals of four provinces, including Bogota. Each city has more than 500,000 inhabitants.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1720 GMT (0120 HKT)
The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by ISIS militants brings into focus the risks faced by reporters in conflict zones.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1224 GMT (2024 HKT)
About $35,000 was taken from the bank accounts of four passengers on board Flight 370.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1353 GMT (2153 HKT)
Five survivors of acid attacks capture India's attention with a "ground breaking" photo shoot.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1732 GMT (0132 HKT)
The execution of a journalist by a British-accented jihadist is a direct challenge to the international community. It's time for the U.S. to move, writes Frida Ghitis.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1219 GMT (2019 HKT)
In an exclusive CNN interview, Lance Armstrong admits to having a "f**k you" attitude.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
Summer isn't over yet. These new hotels are keeping it alive and fresh.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
You've seen her turn on the catwalk, but her income might make your head spin.
August 20, 2014 -- Updated 0036 GMT (0836 HKT)
The pain that Michael Brown's parents are going through is something Sybrina Fulton can relate to. She, too, lost a son in a controversial shooting.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0904 GMT (1704 HKT)
19-year-old Udi Segal explains why he won't join the country's military.
Drinkers guzzled an incredible 10.3 billion liters of this brand in 2013, making it the world's No.1 beer. And you may have never heard of it.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT