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Colombia’s Indigenous Guard in Bogotá for Petro’s “March for Life”

Colombian cities will be besieged on Wednesday by pro-government demonstrations, in what President Gustavo Petro is calling “The March for Life”. The demonstrations, which are being financed with public resources in support of the leftist president’s pension, labor, health, and agrarian reforms, could be the largest since Petro took office on August 7 last year, and now faces a disapproval rating of 61%.

The so-called March for Life was announced last month by President Petro with an offer from the government to provide transportation for farmers to the Colombian capital from the department of Cauca, where over recent months, some of the most intense fighting is taking place between Colombia’s armed forces and FARC dissidents. On Monday, some 3000 members of the indigenous groups from southwest Colombia arrived in the capital, protected by the Indigenous Guard.

The autonomous Guardia Indigena is an ancestral security force that occupied Bogotá’s Plaza de Bolívar back in May and defiantly blocked the entrance to the Colombian Congress.

The presence of the indigenous Minga at the heart of Bogotá, and unconfirmed reports that the Front Line (Primera Línea) movement will participate in the mass protests, sends an ominous message to the residents of Bogotá that the March for Life could result in widespread acts of vandalism, not witnessed in the capital since the National Strike – Paro Nacional. The day, which is being referred to by critics of the march as the ‘Toma de Bogotá’ – Siege of Bogotá – was orchestrated by Petro less than a month before the October 22 territorial elections in which Mayors, Governors, and City Council representatives are on the ballot.

The issue that President Petro is influencing the election season by pushing for the candidates of the Pacto Histórico with his call for mass mobilizations has received fierce criticism from opposition leaders and Bogotá’s mayoral candidates not represented by the government’s coalition party. The Historic Pact’s official candidate for Bogotá Mayor, Gustavo Bolívar, was a staunch supporter of the First Lines during the National Strike, and a shadowy movement that was infiltrated by organized crime groups, among them, the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla, FARC dissidents, and drug trafficking cartel Gulf Clan.

As Bogotanos decide to stock up on food essentials, given the possibility that Wednesday’s demonstrations could end in violence and roiling acts of vandalism, similar to the attacks against public infrastructure and the country’s security forces that accompanied the 2021-2022 Paro Nacional, the question many are raising is why Petro’s urgency to call for mass mobilizations more than a year into his presidency?

The March for Life is being interpreted from across the political aisles as either a vindication of farmers’ rights or a direct affront to the democratic integrity of the nation. The participation of an estimated 20,000 members of the country’s indigenous peoples, combined with trade unions, civic organizations, and farming collectives, will bring Bogotá to a standstill on Wednesday.

Anticipating a day in which the nationwide marches could be conducted peacefully or see a resurgence in politically-fueled violence, whichever the outcome, Wednesday’s March for Life will radicalize Petro’s discourse and determine the degree of government interference in an election that could oust the Historic Pact from taking key mayoral seats in Cali, Medellín, Barranquilla, and Bucaramanga.

In Bogotá, New Liberal candidate Carlos Fernando Galán leads in voting intention for both the first and a decisive second round according to a recent poll conducted by the National Consulting Centre (CNC). The 46-year-old politician’s front-running rivals are the Historic Pact’s Gustavo Bolívar, independents Daniel Oviedo and Rodrigo Lara, former Defense Minister Diego Molano, and retired General Jorge Luis Vargas.

Source : thecitypaperbogota