By Jim Hayes
Colombia is undergoing a crisis made much worse by a President and government, known the world over as thoroughly corrupt and entangled with the cocaine drug lords. This extends through the military, paramilitary, and police.
But hey have been supported, materially and politically, by the United States. They are seen as important allies for implementing its policies in South America.
Since Ivan Duque Marquez assumed the presidency in 2018, more than 800 leaders critical of his policies have been assassinated by the armed forces. Others have disappeared. Some have been arrested and tortured. Communities have been terrorised. All this has been done under the name of law and order,and these violations of human rights go unreported in much of the rest of the world.
Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line. This means that they are in a position where any turn for the worse will leave them without enough to eat. The coming of the Covid pandemic made it all worse. Colombia suffers more deaths in proportion to the population than India because of the lack of health care and other support.
Then the government decides to impose a big increase to the sales (value added) tax. This is what forced the nation’s unions to call an ongoing strike, and the evidence shows it is supported by most of the population.
Using a recent change in the law and the Covid-19 pandemic, the strike and protests were declared an act of terrorism. A curfew was imposed and military force was deployed to enforce it. Crowds have been fired upon with live ammunition. By last week at least 37 had been confirmed to have been killed, many more injured and hundreds have disappeared.
Although the objective was initially to stop the tax hike, it has since morphed into a movement for the ousting of the president, the end of neoliberalism, justice for the victims, for a decent health system and social reform.
Some of the footage below is confronting. View at own discretion. note that one can only be accessed through link to YouTube.
National Strike march on 4 May
#ParoNacional3M🔥| the national strike in a Colombia continues into its 6th day. Tax reform has been defeated, finance minister resign. The masses want president Duque out! pic.twitter.com/d5qD5L6hpT
— Jorge Martin (@marxistJorge) May 3, 2021
The strike and protests continued to grow with students, country people, and even some supporters of the government joining in. Truck and taxi drivers are also involved in the protests.
Truck drivers join the strike
Video from Global News
The city of Cali has become the epicentre and where the worst human rights abuses have taken place.
Colombians March In Support of Cali
Video from Curious Perro
Although much of the big media has mostly ignored what is going on, shows of support are coming from the rest of the world. The United Nations has condemned the brutality. The European Union has called for the end to the use of heavy handed armed force, and the United States has called for restraint. Thousand have taken to the streets in Spain.
Big rally in support of the Colombian people in Madrid the capital of Spain.
Video from Global News
In Australia, the Colombian community is organising its own show of support in various state capital. They want to Australian government to no longer remain silent
The toll continues to mount, and there seems to be no end in sight.
Colombians want an end to ongoing repression
Video from #SOSColombiaDDHH
This is what is happening in Colombia. They are killing us and they don't want to listen. #SOSColombiaDDHH
— Dongplay (@Dongplay_) May 9, 2021
Police open fire on protesters
#SOSColombiaDDHH shooting against the indigenous guard, #Cali, May 9,2021 pic.twitter.com/4Thp6qnxcX
— www.anoncandanga.com🚨💣 (@anon_candanga) May 9, 2021
Colombian government uses military force
Video from #WhatshappeninginColombia
At least 37 people have been killed by the police during protests in Colombia and over 1,700 cases of police brutality have been reported.
The tax reform bill that started the protest was withdrawn, but systemic issues like inequality and police brutality fuel the protests. pic.twitter.com/NQiJrqg8CY
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 8, 2021
The killing of Lucas Villa Vasquez
Video from Estejack
The killing continues and strikers answer bullets with stones
Video from #AlertaRojaEnColombia
Watch to understand what is happening in Colombia #SOSColombiaEnDictadura #soscolombia #Colombia #AlertaRojaEnColombia pic.twitter.com/v0FdocxS6g
— Victor (@victor4nj) May 8, 2021
Confrontations continue in Cali
Video from Al Jazeera English