Since April 28th, Colombian citizens have been taking to the streets to protest the tax reform proposed by President Ivan Duque Marquez. The “Sustainable Solidarity Law” caused outrage among citizens due to the increase in the price of products of the basic family basket such as eggs, milk, meat, coffee, and basic services such as water. The law is unfair to the 3.5 million people who have just entered the monetary poverty list, increasing the number of citizens who have a precarious quality of life and subsist with difficulty, i.e. they have an income of $331,688 Colombian pesos or $88.5 dollars per month. (According to DANE figures)
However, what unleashed the fury of the protesters was the disconnection of former Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla with the socioeconomic reality of the country, when he publicly expressed that a dozen eggs cost approximately $1,800 Colombian pesos or $50 cents, when the real price may be around $7,000 Colombian pesos or $2 dollars. These statements caused shock among the common people, knowing that their leaders had no knowledge of the cost of the basic foodstuffs on which they were imposing an increase.
But the government, facing the dissatisfaction of the marchers, responded with an iron fist and dispersed the protesters with tear gas, stun cartridges, chemical agent grenades, and guided impact cartridges, causing 28 people to lose one of their eyes.
The violence figures have escalated to unsuspected magnitudes. 47 people have been killed (it has been proven that at least 39 of these cases are the responsibility of the police), 548 citizens are missing and, in many videos shared on social networks, police officers without visible identity numbers have been observed capturing young people who for the most part were not committing acts of vandalism.
The videos have also recorded some people who infiltrated the protests, burned buildings, looted commercial establishments, made attempts on the lives of police officers and vandalized the protest, creating panic among the crowd.
No violent action can be justified, but it is necessary to understand that military forces must have guidelines that support the protection of citizens who peacefully demand their rights and not act disproportionately against those they once swore to defend.
We hope that the Colombian State can find paths that will lead it to a negotiated dialogue with society. We call for the cessation of violence to safeguard life, a precious resource that is impossible to repair. May the nights not be a propitious space to silence voices that cry out for justice and dignity.
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