Colombia and Its Protests

It is not an over-exaggeration to state that the world is at its weakest and the worst situation. With the ongoing pandemic, countless people encounter economic, cultural, and even personal difficulties. For instance, several Asians faced racial discrimination and violence in response to the breakout of the virus, and it is this period of which a hate crime towards a particular race is escalating. In this phase of disorder and instability, Colombians are under extremely arduous conditions as they are marching towards equality and peace. 

Protests in Colombia date back to 2019 and 2020. The cause of the protest can roughly include police brutality and reforms proposed under Ivan Duque Marquez, a president of Colombia. The death of a man named Javier Ordoñez, which was caused by multiple taser attacks by police officers, subsequently led to several protests in Bogotá. These protests were not always peaceful; they caused 13 deaths and hundreds of injured civilians, according to Glatsky. Although there has been no direct linkage between police brutality and one particular race, the “research shows that Afro-Colombians are 84 percent more likely to be displaced by conflict” (Glatsky). As a background, the current government under president Ivan Duque is a right-wing government. According to the Oxford dictionary, it is a type of government that is against social democracy and socialism. To add on, some of the marches and the protests were anti-governmental, in which people demanded: “more money for public education, higher wages and more job stability to subsidized pensions, a better healthcare system and the implementation of the peace accords” (Grattan). 

What is different and similar in the 2021 Colombian protests? It has been a year and a half since the pandemic started, and within this time, innumerable individuals, companies, and even countries faced economic difficulties. The Colombian government proposed an increased tax to aid the financially suffering Colombia during the pandemic. When it was first proposed, the government explained that the reform will be helping those who are affected the most by the pandemic. In reality, the reform impacted the lower-income families, while benefiting private sectors. For instance, it “would have lowered the taxable income threshold and increased pension and value-added tax (VAT)” (Pabón and Palacio). This could have destroyed the low-income households as the reform will even increase tax on the products that are used daily by most people. How did people react to this? Colombians were furious and demanded the government to repeal it through a series of protests, in which “at least 40 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured by security forces and armed men dressed in civilian clothes” (Pabón and Palacio). Though the government repealed the reform, the public sentiment towards the government is atrocious. Instead of addressing the issues from the protests, the government considered and advocated them as a demonstration of a left-wing government conspiracy against the current right-wing government. These immature and violent responses by the government deepened the conflict between them and the citizens. Colombia is undergoing severe instability as the tension between the government and the citizens escalates. Protests against tax reforms and police brutality had people on the streets shouting for equality and peace, while the government responded in violence and disregard.

By: Jiyoon Ryu