05 May 2021, Colombia, Bogota: Protesters take part in a demonstration against President Duque's government and police violence following the death of at least 19 people during last week rallies. Photo: Álvaro Tavera/colprensa/dpa/IANS. Image Source: IANS News

Bogota, May 15 : Colombian President Ivan Duque has reiterated that his government is ready to meet and begin formal negotiations with members of the National Strike Committee following 16 days of protests and roadblocks sparked by proposed tax hikes that have since been rescinded.

"We have said with all clarity that we are ready to meet with the members of the Strike Committee to advance in negotiations and forge agreements. That has been a message that has been transmitted in a transparent way," Duque said in a video posted on social media on Friday.

The strike leaders, representing various unions, are demanding the elderly and low-income households receive a basic income for a period of six months of at least the monthly minimum wage, and improvements to the education and healthcare systems, among other demands.

Duque said it was unnecessary to put up roadblocks that have led to shortages of food, fuel and other goods in some cities, especially in the southwest and west-central parts of the country.

"We have to categorically reject the blockades. Here, no one can take away from the Colombian people the right to work and prosper amid this pandemic," said Duque, adding it was necessary to continue the post-pandemic economic recovery.

On Monday, the first exploratory meeting between the parties, held at government headquarters, resulted in no agreements.

Colombia has witnessed violent protests for the past two weeks, including some that turned into riots.

At least 42 people have died and 168 others are missing, according to the latest figures from the national ombudsman's office.

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