Protests continue in Colombia based on political discontent
Sawako Utsumi and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Protests are continuing in Colombia because after two months many see little change from the government of President Ivan Duque. In this time, at least 60 people have been killed. Hence, the state apparatus isn’t afraid to use the power of the gun and other means against protesters.
Duque is seeking to justify the clampdown on protesters by claiming that drug syndicates and the left-wing National Liberation Army (ELN) have infiltrated the protest movement. According to Duque, the ELN and drug traffickers are gaining from the turmoil and discontent. However, unlike past developments in Colombia, the spectrum of protesters doesn’t fit an easy “left-wing” mantra.
Modern Tokyo Times recently said, “Enormous inequality and protracted problems that have blighted Colombia for decades are nothing new. However, recent protests throughout Colombia come from many forces. This includes the perennial poor, the indigenous, the working poor, students, people who have lost jobs during the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, and other sections of society.”
Voice of America reports, “The demonstrators are calling for police reform and more social justice in the face of the consequences of the pandemic which has caused an increase in the poverty rate among the 50 million inhabitants of the country, from 37% to 42%.”
The leader of the indigenous Misak people, Tata Pedro Velasco, is quoted by The Guardian as saying, “The indigenous communities of Colombia are marching in the face of historic problems. Armed conflict continues in our territories while the peace accord with the Farc is not implemented. We want the war in Colombia to end but the government of [President] Iván Duque doesn’t. The government has never helped the countryside or the poor, it just protects its own interests. Indigenous people have long paid the price for Colombia’s war. We have lived through the colonial wars and now we are living through Duque’s war. The spirit of the government is the same as that of the colonizers.”
The fear is that the broader umbrella protesting against government policies will once more split down left-wing and right-wing lines. If so, Duque will play the divide and rule card – and growing divisions will further spread. Therefore, Colombia will witness further class, ethnic, and political divisions during a time of economic crisis unless all sides can make genuine compromises.
However, if Duque can manipulate the ELN angle, he might believe that he can consolidate his power base. If so, then deaths will further increase alongside disappearances.
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