INTRODUCTION: Life has returned to normal in most of Colombia's major cities after 48 hours of violence following a call for a general strike.
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (VISNEWS - RICO ZAS)
SV Soldiers under bridge watching traffic
GV Soldiers on bridge as traffic passes
GVs Traffic in streets. (2 SHOTS)
SV PULL BACK SCU Guards searching pedestrians. (3 SHOTS)
GVs Closed newspaper kiosk
GVs Political graffiti. (3 SHOTS)
Background: INTRODUCTION: Life has returned to normal in most of Colombia's major cities after 48 hours of violence following a call for a general strike. A student was killed in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in the city of Medellin, while buses and government vehicles were burnt in Medellin, Baranquilia and the capital, Bogota. The major union CSTC, which called the strike to protest about the cost of living and low salaries, said it had been a success, but President Julio Cesar Turbay said it had been a failure.
SYNOPSIS: Even so, there was an uneasy calm in Bogota on Wednesday (21 October). Soldiers on trucks kept a close eye on passing traffic. In recent months, guerrilla activity has increased throughout the country as campaigning for next year's presidential elections get under way. Several left-wing guerrillas groups are trying to overthrow President Turbay's government.
Following the violence, police and troops conducted intensive stop-and-search operations on pedestrians. Paradoxically, Columbia has suffered only two coups in the past 100 years, and Presidential and Congressional elections are held every four years.
Yet successive governments have failed to stamp out continuous guerrilla activity from a handful of groups estimated to contain no more than 3,000 hard-core members. Underground groups flourish in Bogota, as these wall messages testify. Assassinations, kidnappings and summary executions are daily occurrences.
Violence was expected during the strike call. Buses and government vehicles were targets for attack. The government took advantage of the call to detain thousands of opponents. The violence threatens the stability of one of Latin America's few parliamentary democracies.
InitialsJS Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved