The people once again took the streets in Colombia. A Tax reform proposal sought to correct the Colombian Tax Deficit, aggravated by the covid crisis, but it was the way to achieve it which aroused discontent.
Since the protests almost two years ago you didn't see such mass crowded marches in Colombia nor such harshness/brutality in the response of the security forces.
The arrival of the pandemic in 2020 seemed to appease the social buzz,
but over the months it accentuated the underlying problems, leading to the current crisis.
A crisis that far from being a temporary problem, It seems a symptom of something deeper.
The spark that ignited the mass mobilization of the country was a $ 6.8 billion that the Government aspired to raise through a proposed Tax reform, which sought to balance the Colombian Tax Deficit, aggravated by the covid crisis.
The way to pay off this deficit aroused much discontent, not a surprise because the proposal was controversial since the start due to the fact: Who was going to pay for it? The proposal intended to obtain the amount from taxing the people who have the least: the middle class and poor working class.
The announcement that tax reform was close to moving from project to reality,
mobilized millions of Colombians across the country. If the changes were to be implemented, the number of people who would pay income tax would be even expanded to people who earn less than two and a half times the minimum wage.
In addition, the reform would also hit those who have income below that figure (whether they are formal workers or not), through the increase of VAT (Value added tax) to
19% of various products of the basic basket that are currently exempt or with a value added tax of 5%. Practically condemning its own people to absolute misery and poverty in a country with increasing poverty and inequality. According to the Regional Development Index Colombia placed first as the most unequal country of Latin America. Adding to the social unrest recently news statistics show that poverty increased almost 7 points during 2020, reaching 21 million Colombians.
Since April 28, several Colombian cities have experienced mass marches and protests. Mobilizations were also carried out in localities, and rural areas.
When it comes to the hypocrisy of main stream media, Colombia is an example in how systematic murder and the massacre of people and activists can go unheard of;
but if this would’ve been in Venezuela the reporting and the attention would’ve been non stop 24/7 on the mainstream outlets.
Colombia is killing it's own people and the media is silent, the world is silent.
The figures are saddening and infuriating.
According to the latest report presented by Indepaz, in coordination with the Patriotic March and the Peasant Ethnic and Popular Agrarian Summit, Just in 2020 the year was closed with more than:
300 social leaders and human rights defenders having been assassinated in Colombia.
The report indicates that during the first 100 days of President Iván Duque's mandate, 120 murders of activists leaders were registered.
The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia (Julliete de Rivero) also recorded 76 massacres across the country last year, defined as events in which three or more civilians are executed at the same time. Saying “The number of registered massacres was ‘almost double’ than in 2019 and was the highest figure since 2016”.
In 2016 there were 97 cases, and in 2017 there were 159 local activists murdered. This is nothing new so to speak, the peak of this situation was registered in 2003 with 1,912 homicides.
During these almost two weeks of protest 42 people have been killed.
The Search Unit for Disappeared Persons in the country, along with 26 other human rights defenders, notified the public defender and the Attorney General’s Office that 471 people have disappeared during the demonstrations. Of these, 92 have already appeared, but 379 are still unaccounted for. On the side of Duques government, the reported figures are lower, with a total of only 89 missing.
An attack that shocked the country last Wednesday against a group of people who were protesting peacefully in a park. In which three young people were shot by unidentified men in a vehicle. Lucas Villa, an activist, a yoga instructor and a student at the Technical College of Pereira, a peaceful organizer who took to the streets energetically to mobilize and organize, was boarding public buses to give speeches explaining to the citizens the reason for the strike and why they should mobilize with them, you can find various videos of him shaking the hands of security forces, singing, dancing, & cheering up the demonstration which became viral.
Later that night in another mobilization in the streets, Lucas is seen shot 8 times, his friend Andres Felipe (17 yrs old) laying next to him agonizing with 4 shots by unidentified men in a vehicle. Protesters around them in shock checked their pulse yelling: They are still alive!
An ambulance rushed them moments after to the University Hospital of Santo Domingo. On May 10th at 11:28 his death was confirmed, his friend Andres survived and is rehabilitating.
The news of his death sparked multiple uprisings in cities; the beloved young admirable social fighter has become a symbol of resistance and protest all over the country. Who was calling for peaceful demonstrations, who was with the people in the front lines, and they shot him just for the simple fact of protesting. Lucas Villa did not die, As a famous Latin American composer Ali Primera once said “Those who die for life, cannot be called dead” #LucasVive
“Because nowadays in Colombia just the fact one being young and being on the street, is risking one's life. We can all die. But how is one going to leave his own people? How can one not go out to protest tomorrow on May 5? It is time to assume that if you have to go, there is no other way. It's time to face that. "And then hopefully the spirit guides us and takes care of us so that we can survive and create a new world.”
Lucas Villa - last voice message that he sent to his friend.
The political situation that Colombia has emerged itself into has been a development of the Neo liberal far right policies that the government of Colombia has implemented for years. Reforms in which impoverishing those who already live just off their salary who are already poor, become even poorer. Not because there is no other to tax, but because the government would not bother the great concentrations of economic power which own them. Perhaps we are seeing the development of something deeper than just a social discontent over a tax reform. It has been a social unrest that has been silenced for years and is ready to rise up and ready to shape their course of history.