After 49 days of non-stop mobilization, the protest leaders and organizers decided to change their strategy to defeat the national government. They temporarily suspended the movements, alleging that youth was dying in the hands of armed forces and they weren’t seeing an effective result. A wave of protests against the current government had taken a huge dimension in May: it began with a tax reform, which included an increase of taxes over products and services.
Colombia has been run by the liberal Iván Duque (member of the Center Democratic Party) since 2018. During the Covid-19 pandemics and quarantine, as in almost everywhere, the country suffered not only in the health aspect, but also its economy has been affected by the conditions. In these terms, the president was accused of being elitist and unfavorable to lower classes. During the pandemics, poverty had a boost never seen before in the country: it reached 42,5% of the population and there was a growth of 2,8 million living in extreme poverty or misery since 2020. The protests went against this policy, requiring a fight against poverty and the president’s impeachment.
The movements started in Bogota and were also notable in Medelín and Cali, despite being transferred to smaller cities as well. Due to its proportion, Duque decided to suspend the most polemic points of this reform. However, some groups continue to claim for their rights to be recognized — among them, truck and taxi drivers, that threaten to go on a strike.
Other than that, police repression was another of the topics discussed concerning Colombia lately: some of the protests were bloody and collisions between officers and protesters became more and more often. Some claim it’s a threat to democracy and human rights, alleging there was a try to install a military dictatorship. Even the Colombian singer Shakira took a position in social media, asking for the government to “stop violating human rights”. She also said “The bullets will never silence the voice of those who suffer. We can’t be deaf to the cry of ours”.
This and other posts created a huge commotion over the topic, but did not end the collisions. In fact, Duque and Diego Molano, the Colombian Ministry of Defense, pronounced in favor of militarizing the cities in which the actions were more energetic, saying that it was supposedly temporary and exceptional. The federal government has also insisted on showing the numbers of dead from Covid-19 after the movements.
As mentioned before, this heavy investment in militarization was what caused the agitations to cease for a while. On June 15th, Percy Oyola, president of General Confederation of Labor, affirmed that besides having to agglomerate to protest in the middle of the worst moment of the pandemics, mobilizations were already going out of breath and, therefore, “it’s about saving lives in two directions”. He also said they don’t want young people to keep being killed or violated in these movements. This is the main reason why the standstill formally stopped.
The standstill committee tried to get in touch with official organs as a way of manifesting their claims, but unsuccessfully. Nevertheless, president of Unitary Central of Workers Francisco Maltés believes the protests won’t completely stop, being able to spread abroad the country. The organizers should keep trying to negotiate with federal organs.
The article above was edited by Carolina Rodrigues.
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