Hundreds of thousands of Colombians protest President Petro's economic, social reforms

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Colombia's main cities on Sunday to protest against the left-wing government of Gustavo Petro, whose popularity is at an all-time low.

The demonstrations were not the first against Petro since he came to power 20 months ago, but they were easily the largest.

Shouts of "Petro out!" rang through the streets of cities across the country.

Medical associations, opposition groups, and even former allies of Petro had urged Colombians to show up in protest both against reforms Petro is trying to implement, including to nationalise health services, and against violence that continues to mar the troubled peace talks with armed guerrilla groups.

"I voted for change, for Petro, but we're still in the same situation. I'm demonstrating because I think Colombia still has hope and because I love my country," Martha Estrada, a 64-year-old pensioner wearing a tricolor hat in Bogota, told AFP.

Petro, commenting on X, formerly Twitter, said the protests were large in Medellin, Bogota and Bucaramanga but "weak" in 18 other cities.

"The main goal of the marches is to shout 'Petro Out' and to topple the government," Petro said, calling the protests a "soft coup" to thwart reforms. He called for a massive pro-government march on May 1.

In the capital, tens of thousands of demonstrators braved heavy rain to make their way to Bolivar Square, near the presidential palace.

Many waved Colombian flags, while white-shirted doctors and health workers carried banners protesting Petro's healthcare reforms, which have proved a lightning rod for criticism.


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