Police in Colombia
have used tear gas and water cannons to disperse around 35,000 public sector workers who had taken to the streets in the capital, Bogota, to demand wage hikes.
The Tuesday protest against the economic policies of President Juan Manuel Santos had been organized by Colombia’s main trade unions.
Among the participants were hundreds of thousands of teachers, who were demanding negotiations with the government for improved working conditions.
“We are against this president who has not met [its commitments under previous agreements]. He’s only lied. We are here, demanding student and teachers’ rights,” said an unnamed teacher.
The government agreed in 2015 to increase teacher’s salaries gradually over four years but has not complied with the agreement, according to the Colombian Federation of Educational Workers (Fecode).
Education Minister Yaneth Giha said the rally was “unjustified,” claiming that the government had been in compliance.
The teachers’ union launched a national strike early this month to demand wage hikes and higher state investment in education. They also called on parents and students to join the protest action and demand investment in the education sector.
Santos has said the teachers’ union should remember that Colombia faces a fiscal tightening and that the government has raised the teacher’s salary since 2014 more than other public sector workers.