Things That Matter

Colombia Becomes The Latest Latin American Nation To Face Massive Protests And Here’s Why

Colombia closed its borders ahead of a national strike supported by a broad coalition of social movements on Thursday, which saw teargas deployed in the capital Bogota and a curfew ordered in the western city of Cali.

President Ivan Duque, a social conservative, came to power in August 2018 and now faces widespread discontent over rising unemployment, economic reforms and a deteriorating security situation

Protesters marched though cities across the country and clashed with security forces.

Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Bogotá and other big cities on Thursday, as the antigovernment protests that have roiled countries in Latin America spread to Colombia.

In the capital, Bogotá, police helicopters whirred overhead, while riot police fired teargas at protesters who had blocked bus routes before dawn. Despite torrential rain, thousands of people thronged the city’s historic Plaza de Simón Bolívar, singing the national anthem.

The marches began in Bogotá largely without incident, although a few clashes broke out near Bogotá airport between protesters and riot police around midday. As the rain cleared, more confrontations broke out across the city in the early evening. Explosions could be heard across the city. Teargas was fired in the Plaza de Simón Bolívar and at the campus of the National University, where protesters battled with security forces.

The protests began with a national strike against President Duque’s policies.

The national strike was prompted by proposed cuts to pensions weeks ago. Though the reform was never formally announced, it became a lightning rod for widespread dissatisfaction with the government of President Iván Duque, whose approval rating has dropped to just 26% since he took office in August last year.

Protesters also expressed anger at the perceived slow-walking of the rollout of the country’s historic 2016 peace deal with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (or FARC) rebel group. That accord formally ended five decades of civil war that killed 260,000 and forced more than 7 million to flee their homes.

Others say Duque has done little to protect social leaders and indigenous people, who are being murdered at alarming rates. Public fury has also been stoked by a recent airstrike against a camp of dissident rebel drug traffickers, which left eight minors dead.

The reasons behind Colombia’s unrest are very similar to those cited by protestes in both Bolivia and Chile.

Credit: Getty

Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia have already experienced major social unrest this year as governments in the region struggle to deal with popular grievances over economic stagnation, corruption, inequality and more specific national issues.

And as in Chile, which has been mired in more than a month of unrest, many in the expanding middle classes feel left behind as the economy continues to grow.

Marta Lagos, director of polling firm Latinobarometro, drew parallels with other South American nations where frustrations over inequality have boiled over. Lagos said that although things are improving for some people, tensions have arisen due to the speed at which different groups in society are advancing.

Colombian officials also closed several border crossings from Venezuela to Peru.

Credit: Laidbacktrip.com

Border closures mean any entry by land or sea from Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Venezuela will be restricted, according to Colombia’s Migration Agency Director Christian Krüger Sarmiento.

The closures began Wednesday at midnight and will remain in place until Friday at 5 a.m., according to immigration authorities.

The government also gave local authorities permission to impose exceptional measures such as curfews, restrictions on freedom of movement and bans on the sale of alcoholic beverages, according to a statement from the president’s office.

President Duque acknowledged that Colombia faces mounting challenges but his remarks left protesters undeterred.

In a series of videos posted on Twitter, Duque said he recognized peaceful protest as an expression of democracy and acknowledged that Colombia faces multiple challenges.

Duque spoke out against those he said saw protests as an opportunity for “agitation,” and called on protesters to demonstrate peacefully. “We will guarantee public order and we will defend, with all of the tools our constitution gives us, the right of Colombians to live in peace,” he said.

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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

The gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs remains wide in Colombia. As of 2019, Colombian women hold 32.9 percent of all STEM jobs in the country.

Nicole Chapaval, the VP of education at Platzi, wants to get more women into STEM. As someone who found herself in tech, Chapaval understands what it takes for women to break into the industry.

Chapaval’s own passion for computer science started in her youth. Despite wanting her parents’ reservations about her career choice, she went to school to study software engineering.

“I learned how to code with Platzi. I was a student back in 2012 before I worked here,” she told mitú.

Platzi is a professional learning app targeting people ages 22 and older.

Photo courtesy of Apple

Instructors for the app are teaching livestream courses on programming, marketing, design, and business. The classes are available in English and Spanish.

Chapaval took an interest in content optimization practicing her coding on a personal blog while taking online courses. Starting out as a student advocate, the two founders of Platzi noticed her dedication and started to involve her more in the team.

As Platzi expanded, so did Chapaval’s job description.

Chapaval has been successful in her career. Yet, despite the success, she has seen the gender disparity firsthand. It has only further inspired Chavapal to work to get more women in their tech careers.

“One of my first jobs was in a company that was doing mobile applications and in this company there were 15 male developers and myself,” she says.

Wanting to engage with her male colleagues, Chapaval admitted to feeling weird when her enthusiasm was not reciprocated.

“I was always very extroverted and wanted to meet everyone [but] they didn’t want to talk with me,” she says.

Chapaval teaches 60 percent of computer sciences courses hoping to attract more women to the field.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I think that representation is very important. So I try to be very vocal and very present with everything that we do in social media and in content creation,” she says.

Whether it be attending company livestreams or podcasts, it is imperative for Chapaval to have women witness others in the field to show the possibilities they can achieve.

Prideful, she also amplifies the achievements of other Latinas in STEM, like that of Diana Trujillo. Yet, she still expresses a need for more women to get managerial roles.

“I am very proud of Trujillo,” she says. “She’s from my hometown and she was in the NASA project that launched the Perseverance Rover. These kinds of things are great!”

Thirty-six percent of Platzi‘s more than 1 million students are women and it is growing.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“That’s very low,” she says, “but we doubled that percentage from 2018 so we still have a long way to go.”

A key step needed to attract more students is accessibility, both financially and in content. Platzi, Chapaval mentions, offers free programming courses that aim to be accessible to those with low internet connection in all parts of Colombia and Latin America.

It’s not just about what you are learning as an individual, but also as a team or a group,” she says. “That also adds to the working ecosystem of Latin America.”

Regardless of gender, age, or background, Chapaval believes “education is very important if we want to break these blockers.”

In fact, two crucial skills she believes everyone should know is programming and English. “I like to say that both skills have to do with communications; communication with machines and with other people in the world,” she says.

In a time when remote jobs are pertinent due to the pandemic, having communication skills is a valuable asset for STEM careers in any country.

“Programming should be a basic skill that schools teach as well because it’s not only [beneficial] to be a developer,” Chapaval says. “It helps you understand how to solve problems in a logical way.”

Chapaval is grateful for her personal growth in STEM and hopes that Platzi can help others grow.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I hope [students] can create what they dream of with the coding skills that they can get with us and can show it to the world,” she says.

“Latin America is a lovely region and a lot is happening here,” she says. “I hope that if this community can get to know each other and create the next big companies and big solutions for problems that we have right now, I would [be] fulfilled.”

As the gender disparity in STEM slowly expands, Chapaval continues to vouch for women to speak up and push through in the field.

Proudly Chapaval says, “Latinas are very extroverted, and the tech and software engineering world needs more extroverted people [like us] to add to their ecosystem.”

The App Store featured Platzi for Women’s History Month.

Read: She Came As A Teen From Colombia With Only $300 To Her Name, Now She’s a Director For NASA

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Black Lives Matter Protests Are Working As Murders By Police Drop In Cities Across The Country

Things That Matter

Black Lives Matter Protests Are Working As Murders By Police Drop In Cities Across The Country

The Black Lives Matter movement is not new. Black Americans have been fighting for their lives for generations. But since the high-profile murders of unarmed Black men at the hands of America’s police officers, the country has been coming to terms with its racist identity. 

Over the summer, despite a deadly pandemic, millions of Americans poured into the streets in cities across the country to demand justice and shout to the world that Black Lives Matter! These protests grew into an international movement that is helping to hold police officers accountable for their actions and it seems to be working. 

Police killings have dropped in cities that held BLM protests.

Since the Black Lives Matter movement grew to national prominence in 2014, protests have spread to cities around the U.S. A new study shows that police homicides have significantly decreased in most cities where such protests occurred. 

“Black Lives Matter represents a trend that goes beyond the decentralization that existed within the Civil Rights Movement,” says Aldon Morris, a sociologist at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the new study. “The question becomes, ‘Are Black Lives Matter protests having any real effect in terms of generating change?’ The data show very clearly that where you had Black Lives Matter protests, killing of people by the police decreased. It’s inescapable from this study that protest matters—that it can generate change.”

According to the study, posted by the Social Science Research Network, municipalities where BLM protests have been held experienced as much as a 20 percent decrease in killings by police, resulting in an estimated 300 fewer deaths nationwide in 2014–2019. The occurrence of local protests increased the likelihood of police departments adopting body-worn cameras and community-policing initiatives, the study also found. Many cities with larger and more frequent BLM protests experienced greater declines in police homicides.

The study shows just how important the Black Lives Matter movement is at saving lives.

The difference was significant in this study: it found police killings fell by 16.8 percent on average in municipalities that had BLM protests, compared with those that did not. When Campbell compared municipalities that already had similar trends in police homicides before BLM began, the estimate rose to 21.1 percent. 

BLM protests may have this effect because they push police departments to adopt reforms such as body cams or community policing, as the study found. Another reason may be that the protests affect police morale, causing officers to adopt a less aggressive patrolling posture that reduces police-civilian interactions in general. And not all cities experienced declines amid the protests. 
But not all cities witnessed the same declines. Police homicides increased in Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco and St. Louis during the five-year period.

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