By: NIAH MADIGAN
Recently, protests in Colombia have sparked in response to pandemic-related tax reforms. However, they have turned into much broader demands for the government to address poverty and inequality. For example, police violence, deaths, and disappearances have continued to fuel the protests.
According to Colombia’s ombudsman- a government official who investigates individual complaints against maladministration-, at least 42 people have already died. Colombian police have been accused of using excessive force, and several cases of police brutality have been caught on video. 17 year old Marcelo Agredo was shot by police as he fled from a protest. The high schooler died shortly after. Nicolás Guerrero and Santiago Murillo were also shot and killed by police in different protests.
“There are completely unarmed people in the marches and they are confronted with officers armed to the teeth, practically military,” said Carlos Naranjo, an activist and member of the group Colombianos en Miami, or Colombians in Miami. “And that has shocked the Colombian community in Florida, and throughout the world.”
In several areas the police shoot with firearms, and the plainclothes policemen appear in van firing,” Michel Adolfo Torres Carmona, a protester from Cali, told NBC News. “There are many missing people. But we must continue the fight. The world must know what they are doing to us.”
On April 28, The National Unemployment Committee called for protests against a tax reform that would raise taxes on products like milk, eggs, meat, gasoline, and utilities. But Colombia’s economy contracted by 7% last year due to the pandemic, and millions of people were left jobless. The tax raise would only continue to hurt the middle class and the most vulnerable.