protesters holding Colombian flag

What is the current situation in Colombia?

And why are people taking to the streets in protest?

Current issues
By VoiceBox ·

Daniela

My name is Daniela, I'm 21 years old and currently studying Sociology and Performing arts. I’m interested in Culture and Human relations

Enough is enough

Sustainable solidarity Law is the name of the new tax reform that was presented by Former finance minister Alberto Carrasquilla and President Ivan Duque. A tax reform that was meant to collect 25.4 billion Colombian Pesos (6.8 million USD) by increasing the taxes on basic foods, public services, wages, pensions and funeral services. What led people to the streets was the indolence, and, dare to say, the ignorance of the government of what the Colombian citizens go through ever since March 2020, when the Coronavirus crisis started.

The pandemic has had a big impact in the country where most people are informal workers and live with what they make by day. Such has been the impact that poverty rose over 6.8% in 2020 and unemployment rates in February 2021 were 15.9%.

The big discontent with the government is deeper than just tax reform. Protests have transformed to march against police brutality, unbridled corruption, massacres, killing of social leaders, gender violence, human right violations, poverty and deep inequality. Problems that have accompanied Colombia through many decades and have aggravated since the Signing of The Peace Accords in 2016 by cause of the non-compliance of what was signed.

On May 10th President Ivan Duque decided to meet with the National Strike Committee (Comité Nacional del Paro) but dialogue did not go well. Protesters informed that the president did not let them speak and the meeting ended without any negotiation or agreement.

It is very important to note that human right violations have been present during the almost 20 days of marching. Data is difficult to collect due to the misinformation coming from the Defence Ministry, Official News Media and what local Human Rights Organizations communicate. Human rights organizations have reported over 362 victims of physical violence, reports of 34 people that have been murdered while the Defence Ministry reports 14 civilians killed. 379 people are missing according to human rights defenders, however the ombudsman reports the number of 98 people missing.

More so, the local news and political party of the current president have pointed and insisted that those who protest are vandals and some are financed by organized crime and guerrillas, trying to make the protest illegitimate and justifying the severe action taken by police, ESMAD anti riot police and military. Despite the recognition that protests have turned mostly violent due to infiltrates, and opportunists who go out to commit crimes, absolutely nothing justifies the excessive use of violence and lethal weapons against the people who are exercising their right to protest.

Being young in Colombia can be challenging, some young people don't have the chance to study or to prepare professionally for their future; and if they do, most don't end up working in what they studied, because there are no job offers for these areas.

We live in the duality of either being unprepared and not getting a job or, being overly prepared(with masters degrees) and getting rejected. Additionally, protests also expose the fear of “no future” for our generation. This is another reason why youths are on the streets, so our dreams don’t perish due to this. However, the only viable option for some, is to leave the country.

The general feeling is that of awakening, where Colombians are not willing to take any abuse by the current government that seems to be more of an authoritarian regime. It also brings a sense of hope that the international community is aware of the crisis we live in.

Even with all the violence that we’ve experienced, protesters still resist with art, music, dance and a big spirit to demand basic rights, justice and a dignified life for everyone. Because as they say, if people protest in the middle of a pandemic, it is because the government is more dangerous than the virus.

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