Emptying Pockets

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Thousands of Colombians in cars and on motorbikes marched across the Latin American country this week to protest against the government’s decision to raise the price of fuel by 50 percent, the latest sign of discontent against the policies of leftist President Gustavo Petro, the Associated Press reported.

Protesters and opposition politicians criticized the monthly price hikes, saying they make it harder for small businesses to operate and will raise the price of food.

The Colombian government has been cutting back on fuel subsidies in recent months in an effort to pay its debts to the national oil company Ecopetrol – which produces most of the country’s fuel – and to free up more funds for social programs.

Oil prices in Colombia have risen from $2.50 per gallon in August 2022 to more than $3.40 per gallon. Officials have said that they want gasoline prices to reach around $4 per gallon by the end of 2023.

Although this amount would mirror current fuel prices in the United States, the minimum wage in the country is around $280 a month.

Petro – Colombia’s first leftist leader – has said that the gasoline subsidies mostly benefited wealthier Colombians who own vehicles. Still, observers noted that he has expressed a willingness to negotiate gasoline prices with some groups.

The demonstrations come amid frustration with Petro’s administration a year after he was elected. Petro vowed to reduce poverty and make peace with Colombia’s remaining rebel groups.

However, the government is still struggling to stop violence in rural parts of the country and improve Colombia’s economy.

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