In the past months, we’ve seen how massive mobilizations in Chile, Ecuador and Haiti have shaken up Latin America, redefining citizens’ capacity to provoke real social change. Now, Colombia joins the list of countries that are taking to the streets to denounce the actions of their governments throughout the region.
Although President Duque of Colombia has been in power for less than a year and a half, he already has a disapproval rating of 69% according to the last Gallup poll carried out at the end of October, the lowest rating since he was inaugurated in August of last year.
What’s more, 70% of Colombians surveyed claimed they believe “things have gotten worse” since last year, and the majority are concerned about the return of armed conflict to the country.
Duque began to generate feelings of dissatisfaction among different social sectors and organisations that promote peace last year, when he attempted to dismantle the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), a tribunal designed to investigate war crimes and to provide truth to victims of the conflict.
His refusal to continue peace negotiations with the armed group, the ELN, which the previous government had started but left unfinished, also triggered worries regarding the worsening of violence and conflict.
Now, the revelation by Senator Roy Barreras during a debate regarding a vote of no confidence against the current ex-Minister of Defense, Guillermo Botero, that 18 minors were killed during a military operative against a supposed camp in which dissidents of the FARC could be found in Caquetá this August, has enraged Colombians across the country.
We spoke with different protesters during the National Strike who told us about their main worries with the current government and why they’re taking to the streets, to understand the complex scenario in which the mobilizations have emerged.
Adriana, Organization of Indigenous Authorities of Colombia
We came here today to join together in support of the indigenous communities of Colombia, but mostly to denounce the fact that they’re killing our leaders, our women, and our children. They’re invilibilising and marginalising the issues we face and problems such as migration, displacement and murders that all affect indigenous communities are all getting worse. We represent communities from Chocó, Putumayo, the Amazon, and we also work with groups who are in the initial stages of contact, who don’t tend to have anyone capable of speaking on their behalf. Stop killing us, and stop plundering our territory, this is our main demand. Respect our right to self-determination, and respect the right to life. Long live the strike!
Iván, Extinction Rebellion Colombia
So many things are going wrong with the current government. For example, they’re not taking responsibility for the huge problem of climate change, which is also directly related to lots of other social causes. We’re here with Extinction Rebellion protesting against the actions of the government, but also against the lack of action regarding the climate crisis. This government wants to bring back eradication of illegal crops with glyphosate, a cancerous chemical, it also supports fracking which is extremely damaging for the environment, and it wants to create mines in the Paramos of Colombia which are unique ecosystems essential for our survival. Multinationals need to get out of Latin America!
Joana, Collective of Artists Bogotá
We’re a group of artists who work as freelancers in a country which doesn’t value the creative industries and which has us completely oppressed with extremely high taxes. We’re here today to peacefully protest because we’re against the terrible management of the current government, which is a government filled with abuse, blood, and hatred, that wishes to instill fear in Colombians. There’s a lot of repression right now in Colombia, but that’s part of the reason why I’m here today. To show that we have the right to freedom and to fight for our dignity. We stand with our Chilean, Bolivian, and Ecuadorian brothers and sisters to fight for what should rightfully be ours.
We have to resist in every aspect of our lives, from the food we buy from the supermarket to going to protest, because these daily acts are also political acts. I believe we all have to rise up and demonstrate our nonconformity in some kind of way. I’m here marching today because every time this government approves another reform to the tax system, it hits me extremely hard whilst it benefits those at the top. I’m also here today out of respect for human life, because of the murders of social leaders, and out of respect for our ancestors, our indigenous communities, and our farmers who are suffering daily due to the quantity of foreign products that we’re importing from foreign countries. In this government, you can find the most corrupt of the corrupt, it’s as though they put all the bad guys from Superman in the same room.
Diana, San Cristobal Theatre Group
Today I’m joining the National Strike with the Indigenous Guard of Colombia and we’re marching against the murders of social leaders, including many indigenous leaders, across the country. We’re also marching to demand education and health be taken seriously, and against the reforms that the state is imposing on us, and mostly to demand quality of life for our children. The National Strike was called in order to protest against many things, such as the policies of the government to lower the minimum wage for young people and to reduce pensions, but we’re also tired that the government hides information from us, which was the case with the bombing in Caquetá. As a member of a community theatre group, I have an obligation to be here to stand up for the rights of my community.