Thousands of Colombians in anti-govt march in Madrid

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Thousands of Colombians marched through central Madrid on Saturday in support of anti-governments protests back home which over 40 people have been killed in clashes with police.

The protesters in Madrid, many wearing the national colours or draped in the Colombian flag, marched up a main road in festive but determined mood, chanting "Democracy", "Peace and Justice" while waving "SOS" banners.

At the head of the procession, one protester had sewn his lips together.

Colombia's foreign minister Claudia Blum resigned Thursday following international condemnation of excessive force used by law enforcers against civilians engaged in anti-government protests since April 28.

Clashes between Colombian police and protesters have resulted in at least 42 deaths -- including one police officer -- and more than 1,500 injuries to date, according to official figures.

NGOs say the real number is higher.

The protests in Colombia were triggered late April by a tax reform bill, since withdrawn, and the finance minister behind it resigned earlier in May.

But the demonstrations continued, fuelled by anger at the government in a country battling ongoing violence and economic hardship made worse by the coronavirus epidemic.

"We support our people, because the government is killing us," Sara, one of the Madrid protesters, told AFP.

"We want a country that is safe, a new Colombia with new leaders," the 46-year-old added.

"To have real change we have to change the president," said 60-year-old Ricardo Morera, from Cali in western Colombia.

Analysts say Colombian President Ivan Duque is coming across as erratic and out of touch in the face of the protests and resulting international criticism.

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