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Another death in Colombian protests, courthouse burnt

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Demonstrators take part in a protest demanding government action to tackle poverty, police violence and inequalities in the healthcare and education systems, in Bogota, Colombia May 26, 2021. ― Reuters pic

A teenage demonstrator died Wednesday in a protest in Colombia that saw a courthouse set on fire, police said, as the country approaches a month of anti-government mobilization that has claimed dozens of lives.

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The 18-year-old university student died from what appeared to be a gunshot wound sustained during a protest late Tuesday in Tulua, in western Colombia.

National Police chief Jorge Vargas identified the victim as Camilo Andres Arango, and said he was shot when a peaceful march was interrupted by men who hurled rocks at police and set fire to the Tulua Palace of Justice.

Two other civilians were shot and wounded in the tumult that also saw 18 shops looted, including a car dealership from which 60 motorcycles were stolen.

The police did not say who fired the shots.

The student’s death brings to 44 the official toll — mainly of civilians — since the protests started on April 28, initially against a mooted tax reform.

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Though the proposal was quickly withdrawn, anti-government demonstrations have continued in the face of a police crackdown that has drawn international condemnation.

With no central leadership or common set of demands, protester requests range from government help in confronting the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic to reform of police practices .

Negotiations that started nearly two weeks ago between the conservative government of President Ivan Duque and one of the most visible protest groups, dubbed the National Strike Committee, have yet to yield results.

The protesters want Duque to acknowledge abuses by the armed forces, while the president wants protesters to end road blockades that have cut off supplies to several cities.

The government claims that leftist guerrillas – members of the Colombia’s last rebel group, the ELN, as well as FARC fighters who did not sign the 2016 peace pact — have infiltrated the demonstrations to foment violence and vandalism.

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