In Support of the People of Colombia

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Syracuse DSA Solidarity Statement, May 7, 2021

The Democratic Socialists of America Syracuse chapter stands in solidarity with the
people protesting and striking in Colombia and suffering under the hands of an
oppressive government and, especially, a repressive police force.

The unprecedented protests that started on April 28 against a regressive tax reform bill
eventually led to its withdrawal. The United Nations and human rights organizations are
condemning rampant police brutality after the current government ordered the
militarization of major cities. In Cali, southwest Colombia, almost 20 people are reported
, bringing the total estimated number to 31. Citizens have registered over 1400
instances of police abuse
, including arbitrary detentions, physical injuries, and sexual
violence. The government continues to push aggressive law and order narratives while
refusing to de-escalate and dialogue and is contemplating declaring a state of internal
disturbance, which would give the military forces extraordinary powers.


In Colombia, a long history of violent armed conflict and decades of neoliberal reforms
have left millions of surviving victims and deepened the gap between the rich and the
poor. Even though in 2016, then-President Juan Manuel Santos signed a peace treaty
with the FARC guerrilla, and laid out an ambitious transitional justice system,
conservatives of the Centro Democrático, the dominant right-wing political party, have
opposed its implementation from the beginning.

Current President Iván Duque, from the Centro Democratico, has made sure to
undermine this agreement, and political violence has risen significantly during his term.
Violent territorial disputes among new paramilitary and dissident guerrilla groups have
increased in several regions, leaving the civilian population vulnerable, particularly in
rural indigenous and Afro-Colombian lands. Right-wing ideologies animate these illegal
military forces, often in alliance with legal ones and local government officials. These
groups continue to target men, women, and LGBT community leaders with nearly total
impunity. Duque’s government has proposed a series of tax reforms to favor extractivist
companies, the entrepreneurial and financial sectors while furthering people’s

The United States is a close military ally of the Colombian Government; it has funded
and trained its military and special police forces for decades. This aid peaked during the
repressive government of strong-man Alvaro Uribe Vélez. Many tactics of abuse and
stigmatization of the social movement were recorded at this time and continue trickling
down into the current militarized police (ESMAD). They infiltrate marches to delegitimize
protesters through violent escalation and sabotage.

Today’s Context

In Colombia, as in much of Latin America, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted
extreme social inequalities and made apparent incompetent and corrupt governance.
Duque’s government has failed to create an adequate response and has instead
resorted to disconnected, expensive, and ineffective solutions, increasing the national
deficit. In a country already rife with widespread poverty, high unemployment, massive
foreign debt, and ongoing political violence, the slow rollout of the vaccines and an
unpopular tax reform pushed the citizenry to the edge. The reform significantly sought to
raise the prices on essential items, including basic food staples, while leaving the rich

Protests began on April 28th, with multiple groups calling for action but spearheaded by
the opposition, unions, students, indigenous, and feminist groups. Pressed by the
protests, Duque withdrew the tax reform, but the people continued to protest the killings
of protesters and mismanagement from the government. The response of the Duque
administration was military suppression, which has risen in violence as the national
protests continue, leaving dozens dead, and thousands more injured. Most critically, in
Cali, a major city in the southwest, the military commander has ignored the mayor’s
authority, leading to the most civilian deaths in any city and various cases of police-led
arson. Though many local authorities have rejected military intervention, the national
government has incited military personnel to shoot at will in the name of law and order.
Calls for de-escalation and a new social agreement are growing from multiple sides as
the discontent grows into the capital city, Bogotá. Although the mainstream media have
attempted to stigmatize the protesters as responsible for property destruction and covid
spread, it is clear that most protests have remained peaceful but frequently instigated by
the police.

Our Demands

We, as socialists and allies, stand with the demands of our siblings on the streets of
Colombia to call for:

  1. Respect for the legitimate right to protest and the de-stigmatization of the
    citizens exercising this right.
  2. An economy that works for the people: The Colombian Government must
    altogether remove the proposed neo-liberal tax reform and all of its parts off of
    the legislative agenda and instead engage directly in subsidy and aid for the
    people most impacted by the pandemic and economic crisis to begin the process
    of creating an equal economy
  3. Nationwide Police Reform: Starting with an immediate, unilateral
    de-militarization of the streets and commencement of a genuine national dialogue
    with all affected parties, culminating in a complete transformation of policing
    forces in Colombia. This view must directly address cases of sexual violence as
    one common but underreported case of state violence.
  4. Implementation of the Peace Process: That the government of Ivan Duque
    reverse its hostility to the peace process with the FARC and recommit to be a
    genuine partner in building a peaceful Colombia
  5. International Solidarity: The Government of the United States must cease the
    funding of or provision of supplies and equipment to Colombian police and
    security forces.

[The upside-down Colombian national flag pictured above is used in protests the signify the dead.]

Further Readings

Statement prepared by Carolina Arango-Vargas, Jesse Harasta, and Julian Velandia Arango

Adopted by the Steering Committee, May 7, 2021

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