November 18, 2019 / 8:25 PM / 21 days ago

Colombia authorizes riot-control measures ahead of protests

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia on Monday said it would authorize local authorities to adopt exceptional measures to contain protests planned for Thursday, given the government’s wariness over the sort of violent unrest that has swept other Latin American capitals.

Student groups and unions called the demonstrations, saying the conservative administration of President Ivan Duque is seeking to impose labor and pension reforms, though Duque has repeatedly denied this in attempts to calm critics.

Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutierrez said on Monday that “false motivations for the call to strike” existed and reaffirmed that the government was not planning to increase the retirement age or lower the minimum wage.

Local and regional authorities would be able to impose curfews and limits on carrying weapons and the sale of alcoholic drinks “when circumstances merit it,” Gutierrez told reporters. Police would be on maximum alert, she added.

In recent weeks, conservative governments in Ecuador and Chile have been shaken by anti-austerity protests. In Bolivia, leftist Evo Morales on Nov. 10 resigned over allegations of vote-tampering after widespread unrest.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Dan Grebler

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