Colombia arrests 46 as national strike enters second day

At least 46 people have been detained and 56 police have been wounded as a national strike entered its second day with no clear end in sight.

National Police Chief Gen. Rodolfo Palomino said Tuesday there were marches or protests in 66 points across the country, but that most of them were peaceful. Even so, more than 15,000 police have been working to dismantle 11 roadblocks that have snarled traffic nationwide. He did not report on the number of civilian injuries.

The Ministry of the Interior said the bulk of the activity was in four, largely rural, departments, but the capital and other major cities were swarmed by thousands of marchers on Tuesday.

What began as an agricultural protest has snowballed to include labor unions, health workers and others. The strikers are calling for an array of concessions, including lower fuel prices, greater agricultural subsidies, and the end to free trade agreements.

Palomino said he’d been receiving reports that some farmers were being pressured to join the strike, presumably by guerrilla groups and criminal gangs. He also said it was “likely” that small explosions that had been heard at some marches were signs that protests were being infiltrated.

“Farmers don’t use explosives to plant potato or corn,” he said.

Although the strikes are not as large as some had expected, it’s unclear when they will end. Some of the protesting sectors have said they will not give in until the government agrees to negotiate. The government, however, has vowed not to talk to strikers.

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