May 12, 2021 08:21 UTC
  •  Protests continue in Colombia, more deaths reported

People in Colombia continue to stage protests against the government of President Ivan Duque, and more deaths are being reported as a result of a crackdown by security forces in the country.

The reported death toll from the street protests rose past 40 on Tuesday. According to the country's human rights ombudsman, 41 civilians and one police officer were killed by then.

Riot police are presumed responsible for 11 killings, and seven deaths are classified as unrelated to the protests themselves.

"We call for all necessary measures to be taken to put an end to the violence that is bleeding Colombia dry," the ombudsman's office said on Twitter.

Local advocacy group Temblores, however, said 40 protesters had been killed by police, and Human Rights Watch said it had received 46 credible reports of deaths and verified 13.

So far, three police officers are facing murder charges in connection with the deaths of the protesters.

The anti-government protests were initially staged against a plan for tax reform that has since been canceled.

The protests, however, gained momentum across the country with calls on the government to address growing poverty, inequality, and police violence.

Protesters now plan to stage a national strike.

Protests in the time of COVID-19 

Meanwhile, authorities have warned of a prolonged peak in coronavirus cases. Officials said that the country's three largest cities, which have recorded nearly 79,000 COVID-19 deaths, are now bracing for an extended third peak in infection cases and over-stretched intensive care units.

Mayor of Bogota Claudia Lopez said on Monday that the capital was confronting a "hospital collapse."

She said that a fall in infections would not come until the end of May.

Lopez pointed out that the street protests had made quarantine restrictions nearly unenforceable.

Medellin's Health Secretary Andree Uribe warned of a possible crisis in the city, which is Colombia's second-largest, and where ICUs have been at or near full capacity for weeks.

"We know there will be an increase in cases, we're on alert, we are carrying out actions for early identification, like testing everyone who participated in the marches," she said.