Protracted problems in Colombia met by deaths from the state apparatus
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Enormous inequality and protracted problems that have blighted Colombia for decades are nothing new. However, recent protests throughout Colombia come from many forces. This includes the perennial poor, the indigenous, the working poor, students, people who have lost jobs during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, and other sections of society.
Since protests began in late April, after the government announced a proposed tax hike, mass discontent erupted. The result is the loss of life of approximately 60 people and with many people being reported missing. Therefore, with the majority being killed by the security apparatus, the distrust of many is now mushrooming to various sections of society outside of the traditional left-wing or right-wing political mechanisms.
President Iván Duque of Colombia knows that images coming out of Colombia are extremely disturbing. Hence, he is promising to implement important reforms concerning the police and brutality to quell internal anger.
The BBC reports, “In a statement, the president said he would ask Congress to approve measures to modernize the police, with the creation of a new human rights directorate and more officer training. A new complaints system would also be set up, along with disciplinary standards for officers.”
The UN’s human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, is extremely upset by scenes emanating out of Cali and in other parts of Colombia. Bachelet uttered, “all those who are reportedly involved” should be held accountable for the crimes committed.
Colombia Reports says, “The Defense Minister’s attempt to violently quell anti-government protests has so far only escalated protests and sparked violent responses to the persistent police brutality and attacks by government supporters.”
The leader of the indigenous Misak people, Tata Pedro Velasco, is quoted by The Guardian with saying, “The indigenous communities of Colombia are marching in the face of historic problems. Armed conflict continues in our territories while the peace accord with the Farc is not implemented. We want the war in Colombia to end but the government of [President] Iván Duque doesn’t. The government has never helped the countryside or the poor, it just protects its own interests. Indigenous people have long paid the price for Colombia’s war. We have lived through the colonial wars and now we are living through Duque’s war. The spirit of the government is the same as that of the colonizers.”
Overall, protesters represent a plethora of forces and grievances that run deep in Colombia. However, the coronavirus convulsions and the brutality unleashed by the state apparatus are leading to enormous discontent across a broad section of society.
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