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Tue May 11, 2021, 12:11 AM

With Scant Evidence, Colombia Says Criminal Groups Are Behind Protests

May 10, 2021
Mariana Castro
Alejandra Arredondo

. . .

Several labor unions and social organizations are leading the protests, calling for a nationwide strike.
In an interview with Voice of America, Francisco Maltes Tello, president of the labor union Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (CUT) said there are multiple reasons why the strike was called.

“There are 21 million people in poverty who earn less than 11,400 pesos a day (about $3). More than 7,400,000 people in poverty, who earn less than 4,000 pesos a day (a little more than $1).
“We have 17 million people who go to bed hungry. A third of the population, 12 million people, in informal employment, who do not have decent work. More than 4 million unemployed. Last year, more than 500,000 companies went bankrupt,” he said.

. . .

As of May 7, official numbers say 26 people have died – all but seven related to protests – and 145 are missing in the unrest. Independent groups like the nonprofit Temblores estimate at least 37 deaths, 936 arbitrary detentions and more than 1,770 cases of police violence.

. . .

The proposed reform would have raised taxes on services including water, electricity, and natural gas, as well as several basic food items, tech items and funerary services. It also expanded taxation on people who earn more than $656 per month – from $1,000 previously. Colombia’s minimum wage is $248 per month.

The pandemic has added to Colombia’s economic woes. Poverty is up 7 percent since 2019, while two out of five Columbians live in poverty. Additionally, some 2.8 million people fell into extreme poverty last year, reporting earnings of $38 per month.

. . .

In major cities, the government deployed the military to control protests, and troops have been accused of abuses that include extrajudicial killings.

The unrest comes against a backdrop of Colombia’s 50-year-long conflict with the left-wing guerrilla group FARC, which in 2016 laid down its weapons after signing a peace accord. Still, FARC rebels and criminal groups remain active and are fighting for control over drug trafficking sources and routes.

In February, a special court found that Colombia’s military had killed at least 6,400 civilians between 2002 and 2008 and passed the deaths off as combat fatalities.

In 2019, Duque’s defense minister resigned after it was reported that at least eight children died when the military bombed a criminal group’s hideout in a remote area.

. . .

https://www.polygraph.info/a/fact-check-with-scant-evidence-colombia-says-criminal-groups-are-behind-protests/31248129.html

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