Protests in Columbia - what and why is Columbia protesting?
What is happening?
On April 28, protests in Colombia began and have grown since then. There have been thirty-seven deaths, at least 1443 cases of police brutality, 831 arbitrary arrests, 87 people missing, hundreds injured, and at least 10 victims of sexual assault by public forces. There are cases of police brutality and violence during the protests. Police have not been following correct procedures and manners. Authorities reciprocated the protests with violence and resistance. Police fired guns and used tear gas against protesters. People are damaging buildings and looting and burning police stations. There have been roadblocks that have led to food shortages, preventions of vaccine deliveries, and ambulance delays.
The government’s response could affect whether there will be more demonstrations. The government has not tried to protect the rights and lives of civilians, however, Defense Minister Diego Molano insists they tried to protect peaceful protesters and those at home. They are calling for militarization and see the protests as illegitimate terrorism and vandalism, blaming the violence on left-wing rebels. The government claims that rebel groups went into protests and that drug trafficking is occurring within the protests, while leaders say that the government has been stigmatizing protesters.
Why is it happening?
At first, the protests were happening because of a tax reform bill that President Iván Duque was proposing to mitigate Colombia’s economic crisis, as the country’s economy decreased by almost 7% last year. The bill would increase taxes on essential products and public services. Colombia’s people would be deeply affected by the bill, as they are dealing with the negative effects of Covid-19. On May 2, President Iván Duque withdrew the bill but plans to seek a new one. Protests continued because of poverty caused by the pandemic and police brutality, as well as inequality.
Peasants, Indigenous, and Afro-Latino people feel that the government is in debt to their communities. Colombia’s president requested to have a conversation with union leaders and citizens without police interference. Protesters, however, are not just disappointed over the tax reform but frustrated with issues predating.
How are people helping?
Around the world, activists used social media to spread information about what is going on in Colombia. Various celebrities, including Shakira, Maluma, Becky G, and more have also spoken out about the situation in Colombia. The hashtag #sosColombia is used to information and resources for protesters and supporters. Other things like pressuring congresspeople to halt the U.S.’s training and sale of equipment to Colombia’s riot police, Escuadron Movil Anti-Disturbios (ESMAD), and donating are ways to help Colombia. One organization to donate to is Temblores, which is an NGO monitoring human rights abuses committed by police during protests. People can also organize a solidarity rally to put pressure on Colombia’s embassies.
Research Coordinator - Jezreel Gaad
Editor - Priyam Kusundal
Illustrator - Hafsa Gaballa
Graphic Designer - Hafsa Gaballa