Photo: Colombians protest Transmilenio bus network
Windows were shattered, traffic disrupted and some 30 people arrested here Friday amid protests by thousands of riders of the Colombian capital’s Transmilenio bus network.
“What began as a peaceful protest, with speeches and placards against the deficiencies that occur in Transmilenio, transformed little by little into acts of vandalism and a blockade against the system,” the Bogota city government said in a statement.
The demonstrations began during the morning rush hour, when hundreds of riders - mainly students - occupied bus stations and prevented the vehicles from leaving.
Disgruntled Transmilenio users went on to block several main thoroughfares in the capital.
Protesters complained of buses habitually running late at the busiest times of day, that fares are too high and the routes too limited and of the lack of alternative forms of mass transit.
Police said the situation was exploited by “misfits” who vandalized Transmilenio stations, stealing security cameras and money from the tills.
Around 1,200 police were deployed across Bogota to deal with the disturbances, officials said.
The city’s mayor, Gustavo Petro, said it is necessary “to renegotiate the conditions” of the service offered by Transmilenio, but criticized the people blockading stations for impeding that process.
To facilitate transport, Petro suspended Bogota’s alternate-day restrictions on driving for private vehicles.
In an incident possible related to the transit protests, a man was arrested after detonating two small explosive devices near Congress and the presidential palace.
The blasts caused no casualties or damage.