6 May 2021   Leave a comment

Colombia has entered its second week of protests and the government’s response to the protests has become increasingly repressive. There are actually a number of issues that have led to the protests, as explained by The Guardian: “Demonstrations began over an unpopular tax reform but have since grown into outburst of rage over poverty, human rights abuses and the authorities’ heavy-handed response to protests.” Colombian President Iván Duque has called for a national dialogue, but the government’s handling of the protests has become increasingly militarized:

“Duque has been powerless to quell the unrest despite ordering the militarization of major cities and withdrawing his tax plan. His government has attempted to frame the protests as the work of “terrorists” from dissident rebel groups.

“Amid growing popular anger, observers have advised caution over the possible spread of disinformation. But videos analysed by Amnesty International confirm that police have used lethal weapons, including rifles and semi-automatic guns, against protesters around the country.

“’It is deeply alarming to see the heavy-handed crowd control response across the country,’ said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director of Amnesty International. ‘The people’s discontent over the economic crisis is clear – it is unjust and puts their human rights at risk.’”

The protests have occurred in over 240 villages and towns in the country, suggesting that the discontent is widespread. The protests have intensified because of the heavy-handed response and the death count is over 25 so far. The effect of the COVID pandemic on Colombia has mirrored the experience of many other countries in the world. Unemployment in the country increased from 9% to 16% because of the economic slowdown caused by the disease. COVID has heightened the disparity between rich and poor in the world to an alarming degree:

“Globally, 41 percent of workers in the poorest 20 percent of their country’s income distribution said they lost their job or business as a result of the pandemic, compared with 23 percent of workers in the richest 20 percent. That gap in job loss is similar between those with a college degree (16 percent who have lost a job or business) and those without (35 percent).

“The gulf in economic vulnerability is strongly linked to the prevailing level of income inequality going into the pandemic. In the most economically egalitarian nations (as measured by the Gini coefficient for household income), workers with lower incomes and less education were protected from mass unemployment, in part through national policies that sought to prevent job loss.”

The relatively good news about COVID in the US is not reflected in many poor countries. India is the most destabilizing example so far, but Colombia suggests that we can anticipate further protests globally.

Posted May 6, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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