Copa Libertadores games switched to Paraguay amid Colombia protests

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May 4 (Reuters) – Protests in Colombia have forced the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) to move two of this week’s Copa Libertadores games to Paraguay, the organisation said on Tuesday.

Colombian President Ivan Duque said on Tuesday the government was ready to hold a national dialogue after days of protests led to more than 20 deaths and international warnings about the use of excessive force by police.

The protests, set to continue on Wednesday, were originally called in opposition to a now-cancelled tax reform but have become a broad cry for action against poverty and what demonstrators and advocacy groups say is police violence.

The decision was taken “due to the lack of security guarantees offered by authorities” in Colombia, CONMEBOL said in a statement.

CONMEBOL said Independiente Santa Fe v River Plate and Atletico Nacional of Medellin against Argentinos Juniors would be played in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion on Thursday.

Another game between La Equidad and Lanus in the Copa Sudamericana was also moved to Paraguay.

The Copa Sudamericana is South America’s equivalent of the Europa League, while the Copa Libertadores is similar to the Champions League.

The matches are also taking place amid a surge of COVID-19 cases across the continent and the outbreak was cited as an exacerbating factor in the match changes by Colombian officials.

They come as 11 members of another Argentine club, Independiente, were detained and returned home by Brazilian authorities after testing positive for the virus.

Independiente said their players were “mistreated for more than 20 hours by health authorities in Bahia state” but the Copa Sudamericana game will take place as scheduled on Tuesday. (Reporting by Andrew Downie Editing by Toby Davis)

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