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Sun May 9, 2021, 07:56 PM

Strife in Colombia has been brewing for decades. Here's why we hear so little about it. [View all]

The Flag of Colombia

For the last week, waves of civil unrest have rocked Colombia. Intense press attention has gone alongside condemnation of the government’s response from international and regional organizations. The government now appears to be facing an existential crisis. But we need to be clear that this crisis didn’t come out of nowhere.

Colombia has suffered under one of the worst set of governments in all Latin America. This raises two obvious questions. Firstly, ‘why have we heard comparatively little from the corporate-owned media about the South American country until now?’ And ‘why does Washington seemingly give Colombia a free pass when it has such flagrant human rights problems?’

Colombians take to the streets en masse
On April 28, Colombians took to the streets to protest a government austerity measure aimed at closing budgetary gaps stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Called the “law of sustainable solidarity”, it became instantly unpopular for putting most of burden on ordinary people. The measure imposed a regressive sales tax on essential items such as milk. There was also a tax increase on utilities such as water and electricity. Compounding the harm was a law passed in 2019 that provided generous tax benefits to the finance, oil, and mining sectors.

The right-wing government of Ivan Duque has responded with heavy-handed measures. It sent in the military to several of Colombia’s major cities, which has led to multiple deaths and disappearances as well as reports of sexual violence toward demonstrators. As this article went to press, the death toll stood at at least 30 along with scores more injuries and many still missing. Under pressure from what quickly turned into a nationwide strike, Duque’s government back-peddled and withdrew the “sustainable solidarity” measure. But by then, the protests had morphed into a wider movement against his government. Protesters, for instance, point to Duque’s poor handling of the coronavirus crisis. Colombia currently has the third-highest coronavirus death toll in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico.

But, Colombia’s social, economic, and political pathologies long predate the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Colombia, for example, holds the dubious distinction of being the second most unequal country in Latin America, which is itself the most unequal region in the world. Over 60% of the population, meanwhile, works in the informal economy. Many of these workers have access only to substandard public services. For example, though Colombia’s healthcare system has been described as “near-universal”, it has nevertheless been “widely criticized for providing dramatically inferior care to the less affluent”.

As a result of the decades-long armed conflict and fallout from the ongoing ‘War on Drugs’, Colombia is also one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Though security has improved in recent years, what is often left unsaid is that this came about through a massive increase in the presence and power of state security forces that has entailed a sharp increase in human rights abuses. Colombia, for example, is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist or social activist. Among the latter, trade union activists are some of the most at risk. Over the last decade the country has often been the number one most dangerous country to be a trade unionist.

More:
https://www.thecanary.co/global/world-analysis/2021/05/09/strife-in-colombia-has-been-brewing-for-decades-heres-why-we-hear-so-little-about-it/

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Reply Strife in Colombia has been brewing for decades. Here's why we hear so little about it. [View all]
Judi Lynn May 2021 OP
abqtommy May 2021 #1