BOGOTA, Colombia – The few indigenous teenagers who have left their impoverished communities behind to get a public college education in Bogotá have joined the tax reform protests. Some of them decided to march against police brutality. Others are demanding more access to education, health reform, and an increase of the $285 monthly minimum wage.
According to the Ombudsman’s Office of Colombia, the protests have resulted in more than 160 disappearances and at least 42 deaths. There was fear when Colombian President Iván Duque ordered the military and law enforcement to clear the roads. The protesters’ roadblocks caused supply chain disruptions in Cali and Bogotá.
Francisco Maltés, the president of The Central Union of Workers, or CUT, said protesters have had the legitimate right to participate in the national strike, which started on April 28. The dissent continued even after Duque agreed to drop his proposal for tax reform, which aimed to raise $6.3 billion over 10 years.
“President Duque’s tax reform proposal was the last straw,” Maltés said in Spanish adding that the rising levels of poverty and the inequities worsened by the coronavirus pandemic made it easy for workers to feel anger when they learned their grocery bills were going to be taxed.
Maltés is part of the ongoing negotiations with Duque’s administration.
In Cali, Duque’s administration blamed the violence on armed groups who infiltrated the tax reform protests. But several protesters there said the violence was coming from police officers who had even shot at a crowd engaging in peaceful dissent with music and dance.
Retired members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, joined the protests on May 4. They have been upset that Duque didn’t follow through with the 2016 peace deal’s promises.
On Tuesday, the FARC, which transitioned from an armed to guerrilla to a political party, reported Jesus Santrich, a prominent leader who was also known as Seuxis Hernandez, was killed on Monday in Venezuela. The U.S. had accused Santrich of narcotrafficking.
Meanwhile, Sen. Gustavo Petro, a former leftist guerrilla fighter with the M-19 and the former mayor of Bogotá, is preparing for next year’s presidential election. He asked his followers on Twitter to march on Wednesday in “defense of democracy.”
In response to Duque’s statement on Monday, Petro tweeted: “There is no right in Colombia to kill citizens, or for public officials to sexually abuse minors, to damage the eyes of youth, to torture and to disappear. You, Duque, do not have that right.”
Related social media
#Bogotá #Urgente A esta hora cuatro jóvenes afectados en sus ojos, uno con perdida total por represión de ESMAD en Portal de las Américas. Número de golpeados en su rostro y cabeza aún sin definir. Ataques policiales en todos los barrios aledaños al Portal pic.twitter.com/bVg8seUfUp— Comisión de Justicia y Paz (@Justiciaypazcol) May 19, 2021
Información de inteligencia señala que en presuntos enfrentamientos ocurridos ayer en Venezuela habría muerto alias "Santrich" y otros delincuentes. Información en verificación. De confirmarse este hecho, se comprueba que en Venezuela se refugian narcocriminales.— Diego Molano Aponte (@Diego_Molano) May 18, 2021
Saludar a la @CIDH, @OEA_oficial que escuchó al movimiento de DDHH, social y de víctimas, para que haga una visita a Colombia y verifique la gravedad de la violencia policial. Bienvenida y espetamos que @IvanDuque responda cuanto antes esta solicitud. @asociacionminga, @coeuropa pic.twitter.com/U1mcjPxMNS— Diana Sánchez Lara (@DianaDefensora) May 15, 2021
¡La Policía de Cali miente!— Feliciano Valencia 🌽 (@FelicianoValen) May 10, 2021
Miente porque la Guardia Indígena no está armada, tampoco saqueó casas ni comercios, no somos ladrones ni vándalos.
Fueron civiles armados protegidos por la policía quienes atacaron a la Minga desarmada. pic.twitter.com/eNo7DMykyk