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Canada shows solidarity with victims of the outbreak of violence in Colombia

Photo: Alex Usquiano (http://alexusquiano.com)

The Canadian government, the Colombian community in Canada and human rights organizations condemned the violence in Colombia, “including the disproportionate use of force by the security forces”, after at least 39 people were killed and close to a thousand injuries during the protests in recent weeks.

“In Canada, we are deeply saddened. The right to peaceful assembly and association is the foundation of democracy and must be promoted and protected at all times,” said Marc Garneau, Canadian Foreign Minister, in a statement.

The Colombian-Canadian community has also demonstrated in the main cities of Canada. In Ottawa-Gatineau, they published a statement asking Canada to reject the use of force, persecution and torture, as well as the disappearance of protesters, while in Montreal, they organized a sit-in in front of CBC and Radio-Canada, and in Toronto Hundreds of people gathered in Nathan Phillips Square to show solidarity with what is happening in Colombia.

Poverty and Covid, a bad combination

The trigger for the recent massive protests in Colombia was the tax reform presented by the president, Iván Duque. Reducing the fiscal deficit, sustaining investment and financing subsidies for the poorest people were the objectives of the proposal, which included an increase in VAT, funeral tax, basic services and income.

For the first time in decades the workers, peasants, indigenous people and students organized to protest at the same time; the fall of the tax reform in the midst of a fiscal emergency showed cracks in a hitherto solid economic model and the ability of politicians to generate confidence and resolutions seems more limited than ever.

The Covid-19 pandemic put Colombia before a health emergency that required, according to the government, to increase public spending to deal with it. And although according to economists, tax reform is necessary to clean up the economy, people from various sectors, called by unions and other unions, have taken to the streets to express their discontent.

 Tensions continue

For the first time, President Iván Duque has opened up to reach an agreement with the organizers of the strike that has blocked the country for two weeks. However, tensions continue. The Colombian Ombudsman’s Office affirmed that as a result of the protests there are 170 missing persons.

The rejection of the violence that the protesters have experienced has become undeniable among the international community. The UN, the European Union, the United States and Canada, among other countries, raised their voices against police abuses.

In Canada, Garneau expressed concern about attacks against public officials responsible for the protection of Colombian citizens.

“Canada requests those responsible for roadblocks to allow the free passage of essential goods and services for the fight against the pandemic,” Garneau urged.

Duque faces unprecedented protests since he came to power in 2018. Trade unions, indigenous people and students, among other dissatisfied sectors, demand a change of course from the president in the face of the poverty facing the country.

According to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), poverty rose in 2020 to 42.5%. Another 30% of the population is in a situation of economic vulnerability: they have incomes above the poverty level, but in the face of any economic crisis they are at risk of falling into extreme poverty.

In other words, almost 75% of the Colombian population is in a situation of economic vulnerability. To this is added that unemployment rose 5 points in 2020, especially among the youngest.

By Silvia Méndez

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