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News > Colombia

Colombia Still Has No Solutions After Two Months of Protests

  • Members of the anti-riot squad take aim at demonstrators, Colombia, June, 2021.

    Members of the anti-riot squad take aim at demonstrators, Colombia, June, 2021. | Photo: Twitter/ @InvisiblesMuros

Published 28 June 2021

Police brutality and state terrorism has been President Duque's main and only response to those who demand real solutions to the crisis.

On April 28, Colombians began a national strike to demand that President Ivan Duque drop a tax reform and austerity program designed to satisfy International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionalities.

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This neoliberal policy package, which was sent to Congress in 2019, further exacerbated the economic crisis previously generated by Duque and his cabinet. Instead of listening to the demands of a population experiencing serious levels of unemployment and poverty, the Colombian government responded to the protest by increasing police brutality.

So far, the NGO Temblores, the Institute of Studies for Development and Peace (INDEPAZ), and the National Strike Committee have documented 70 people killed because of the actions deployed by the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) and the Army. Human rights defenders have also counted 81 people with severe eye injuries caused by tear gas projectiles.

The obvious human rights abuses have had a negative effect on citizen perception of Colombian institutions and the political class. According to the latest opinion polls, 64.6 percent of Colombians distrust the national police. Also, most citizens demand the dismantling of the ESMAD and reject the far-right violence promoted by former president Alvaro Uribe.

In the previous months, the National Strike Committee asked the Duque administration to sign an agreement to demilitarize all the country's regions and guarantee the right of citizens to protest without being assaulted by the ESMAD. The Colombian authorities, however, ignored the request for an agreement on minimum guarantees for peaceful social protest.

Faced with this and other non-compliances, the social leaders suspended negotiations with the government in early June. The National Strike Committee announced it will draft several bills to contain the economic and social crisis.

These proposals will be presented to Congress on July 20 when which workers, farmers, and students will also hold a new massive “March for Life, Peace, and Democracy.”

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