On September 27th, protests erupted in various regions across the country. In Bogota, the mobilization led to congestion in the city center, causing a significant disruption to the Transmilenio public transportation service. As a result, operations on bustling 26th Street had to be temporarily suspended.
An estimated 100,000 participants, including indigenous groups, labor unions, and everyday citizens, took to the streets in support of President Gustavo Petro's reforms. The city was alive with the sounds of dissent from 8:00 am, with demonstrators congregating at various points throughout the city, their paths ultimately converging at Bolívar Square.
The demonstrations significantly disrupted the city's traffic flow, prompting several streets to grind to a halt. There was a notable suspension in public transportation services in both directions along street 26 around 12:25 pm. Furthermore, services at the Bogota Council and Memory Center stations were also disrupted. Consequently, those needing to traverse these areas were advised to seek alternate routes or leave earlier.
TransMilenio Transit System: A Victim of Protests and Operational Challenges
Two days prior to the large-scale protests, Bogotá's TransMilenio transportation system was severely impacted due to a demonstration by the operator's union at the El Dorado portal. This protest intermittently blocked the exit from the yard of the El Dorado portal, causing considerable delays in the transportation system's operation. This led to the suspension of the feeder service to the portal for approximately 40 minutes until normal operation could be resumed.
The suspension was primarily driven by concerns over the safety of all users. The system remained suspended until security measures could be guaranteed. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability of large public transportation systems to disruptions caused by protests and strikes, and the urgent need for effective contingency plans to minimize their impact.
Controversy Surrounds Protests Amidst Political Concerns and Presidential Response
A contentious debate has revolved around the demonstrations planned for this Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon, President Gustavo Petro responded to a request from Prosecutor General Margarita Cabello, who had urged the Ministry of the Interior to oversee the marches and prevent them from being exploited as platforms for advancing political candidacies. Petro directly addressed the situation, drawing a comparison to U.S. President Joe Biden's significant action earlier in the day. Biden had become the first sitting U.S. president to participate in demonstrations advocating for improved conditions for automotive sector workers.
In the morning, it was uncertain whether the head of state would actively take part in Wednesday's protests due to scheduling conflicts.
In recent days, Cabello expressed concerns during a session of the National Commission for the Coordination and Monitoring of Electoral Processes. These worries arose from political organizations, candidates, and citizens expressing worries about the possibility of certain candidates exploiting the marches for electoral gain in the upcoming elections.
Furthermore, the official issued a cautionary statement, emphasizing that if the balance in electoral contests were to be disrupted, regulatory authorities would have the responsibility to intervene, ensuring transparency and safeguarding the political rights of citizens.