6 May 2021
The Socialist International has been following with deep consternation the brutal violence that has been carried out in Colombia against protesters, women and men, throughout different cities of the country, who have denounced and firmly rejected the project presented by President Iván Duque for tax reform and tax increases, intended to cover the impact that Covid-19 has had on the country's economy.
The measures were immediately questioned by important sectors of Colombian society and thousands of citizens took to the streets en masse to denounce the fact that the popular sectors and the middle class would be the ones most affected. The popular outpouring comes to a certain extent as a continuity of the social mobilisations seen at the end of 2019 against the economic and social policies of the government. The demands for greater equality and better living conditions by the most disadvantaged sectors have continued and after more than a year of pandemic the crisis has only worsened. The outbreak that we have been witnessing now in Colombia is one of social protest.
The government has since withdrawn the measure and President Duque has called for dialogue. The mobilisations, however, have not ceased, rather they have grown throughout the country and count with the support of Colombians living abroad and other actors beyond their borders.
In this context, the Socialist International, which will always support a dialogue between the different political and social actors in the country, condemns the measures that forcibly prevent or restrict social protest rather than seek to restore public order. The current context of health emergency cannot serve as a justification for arbitrary, illegitimate or excessive restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, which are rights that should never be violated.
The SI vigorously rejects and condemns the violence and the excessive use of force by police groups. During these days of protest, twenty-four people have already lost their lives and the number of injured is close to a thousand. The serious accusations of brutal actions by those in uniform and of the violation of the human rights of Colombians who were the victims must be promptly clarified and responsibility established, and the corresponding sanctions must be applied.
The SI considers that statements such as those of former President Uribe, founder of the Democratic Center party, currently in government, do not promote a peaceful solution to the current crisis and do not appear to accept the fact that the country carried out with effort and perseverance a Peace Process concluded in recent years. In post-conflict Colombia, mobilisations must take place within a democratic framework that is recognised as an expression of legitimate social demands, the actions of the police force must be oriented towards maintaining public order and not towards the criminalisation of protest, and the lives and rights of all Colombian women and men must be respected and protected by their leaders in government.
In these difficult times the country is going through, the Socialist International expresses its full solidarity with the people of Colombia and with its member party, the Colombian Liberal Party.