Human rights violations by Colombian government pile up amidst national strike.
Answering the calls for organized peaceful protests against the “tributary reform” announced by Colombian President Ivan Duque, (a series of tax increases on goods and services, as well as an income tax increase on members of the middle and working classes), union workers, students, families, activists, government opposition and members of the general population gathered in various cities since the 28th of April exercising their democratic right to assemble and protest. As people gathered in the streets to show peaceful expressions of discontent, members of Duque’s government and the media began calling the people “terrorist vandals” and “organized criminals” with the president announcing on a televised speech that the actions of “destruction of property and messages of hate” would not be acceptable.
1708 cases of police violence have been documented, with 222 cases of physical violence by the police, 312 violent interventions by the public force, 10 cases of sexual violence by the police, 831 arbitrary arrests, 22 victims of aggression to their eyes and 110 cases of fireweapons shot by the police (numbers documented on Grita platform by @tembloresong from April 28 6am to May 5 of 2021). Of the 37 fatalities by the police, 19 year old Santiago Andrés Murillo passed away from a projectile weapon wound to his thorax in Bogotá, with witnesses stating it came from a police officer; 86 year old Jesus Florez died of inhalation of gasses in Risaralda on the 30th of April, and in Medellin Jefferson Alexis Marin died of a gunshot wound to the head.
In addition to the cancellation of the reform, the list of requests drafted by community leaders of the strike includes the removal of Health Law 010 and a strengthening of covid vaccinations, a basic rent or at least a monthly minimal salary law, subsidies and defense for national production, established rights for employees including the right to food, no discrimination due to gender, sexual preference or ethnic bg and a cease to glyphosate fumigations (glyphosate’s distribution has been banned in many cities of the US and studies have linked it to cancer).
The United Nations’s spokeperson of the comission for Human rights in Colombia Juliette de Rivero confirmed that members of the commission have been physically assaulted and threatened in Cali while they investigated violations of human rights to the protestors.
Ex-president Alvaro Uribe, member of the right-winged party Democratic Center and currently under investigation for the False Positives scandal under his mandate, had his tweets blocked for encouraging false information and violence due to posting in support of the current armed response of the Colombian military.
Some of the consequences of the current turmoil include the devaluing of the Colombian peso due to financial instability (with an already weak economy and current unemployment at approx. 17%), the endangering of the general population due to the current spread of the pandemic, and a hospital system already on the verge of collapse.
EU spokesman Peter Stano said it was a priority to stop the escalation of violence “and to avoid any disproportionate use of force by security forces.” US State Department deputy spokeswoman Jalina Porter underlined the right of all people to protest peacefully: “Violence and vandalism is an abuse of that right. At the same time, we urge the utmost restraint by public forces to prevent additional loss of life,” she said. Amnesty International called Tuesday for an “end to repression of protests and the militarization of cities.”
The hashtags #soscolombia (S.O.S Colombia) and #nosestanmatando (they’re killing us) as well as #elparosigue (the national strike continues) are being used by the Colombian population in the country and abroad to bring attention to the hundreds of videos and witness accounts of police brutality, violence and militarization, claiming for international intervention to a country once again ravaged by violence.
The national strike continues.
Written by Elizabeth Torres (Madam Neverstop)
Edited on the 6th of May to reflect the updated numbers of the 5th of May.
Photos by Miller Almario Gamba for Red Door Magazine.