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.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

#BlackLivesMatter Is Trending In Colombia After Five Black Teens Were Killed While Playing On Their Street

Things That Matter

#BlackLivesMatter Is Trending In Colombia After Five Black Teens Were Killed While Playing On Their Street

Luis Robayo / Getty Images

Despite countrywide stay-at-home orders that are among the world’s most strict, and even cartel-enforced lockdowns, crime is on the rise across Colombia. The increase has been driven by massacre-style attacks on the country’s most vulnerable communities: Afro-Colombians and Indigenous groups.

The recent torture and murder of five black teens who had stepped outside to fly kites, has reignited the conversation on race and how the government can step up to make sure minority groups across the country can be better protected.

A group of Afro-Latino teens were found tortured and murdered in Cali, Colombia.

Five Black teenagers left their homes in a neighborhood in Cali, Colombia, to fly their kites and play on a recent August morning. The young friends, aged between 14 and 18, didn’t show up at home for lunch. By midday, their mothers were looking for them.

“The boys were found tortured, burned, with machete and bullet wounds,” said Erlendy Cuero, a social leader from Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city. “Right now, the people who live here are sad but also very scared.”

Community members recently led a protest denouncing racism and violence inflicted by the Colombian state, and demanding justice for the murdered teens and other Afro-Colombian people who’ve been killed.

The mother of one of the Cali victims said: “Because we’re vulnerable and black, lots of people think they can walk all over us and forget about what happened to our children. Don’t let it be forgotten.”

The brutal killings are a reminder to Colombians that ethnic minorities are the most affected by violence.

Credit: Luis Robayo / Getty Images

Colombia is a country that has grown accustom to violence, but the massacre of these Black teens has shocked the country as a whole. And it’s brought to light a very real issue of racism in the country and shown exactly which communities suffer the most: ethnic minorities.

The recent masacre has also illuminated cracks in the still fragile peace deal between the government and former-FARC rebels. Just days after the boys were found murdered, a grenade was thrown at the police station in Llano Verde. The attack injured 15 people and left one man dead.

“We can’t assure they’re related, but neither can we rule out that hypothesis,” said Jorge Iván Ospina, Cali’s mayor.

The communities that suffer the most from widespread violence, are the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. They have little protection from the central government in Bogota. However, it appears that finally, Colombians are starting to realize that peace will never be possible without listening to those communities who are most affected by violence.

Massacres are on the rise across the country, despite countrywide stay-at-home orders.

Colombia has been under one of the world’s longest running lockdown orders thanks to the Coronavirus. However, the number of massacres carried out this year is record breaking. In 2020, there have been at least 43 massacres leaving at least 181 dead.

The majority of them are taking place in the country’s south-west, home to larger populations of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities. Although responsibility for the massacres remains unclear, the government is pointing fingers at drug cartels. Families of victims though disagree, saying that their loved ones had no involvement with the drug trade.

A frequent complaint in these areas is that there is no government presence, allowing elements of armed groups that did not accept the peace agreements made in 2016 by the previous government of Juan Manuel Santos to fight for control of territory. 

The massacres are at least bringing forth a conversation on race and vulnerable communities in the country.

From police brutality to government indifference, Black and Indigenous Colombians live very different lives from the rest of the country. They’re more often targeted for abuse by police, they’re more likely to fall victim to massacres, and the government affords them little in the way of official protections from discrimination.

The recent murder of the teens from Cali, is finally bringing the #BlackLivesMatter conversation to a country that has long denied the existence of racism within its borders.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Two Protesters Killed In Streets Protests Over The Police Shooting Of Jacob Blake

Things That Matter

Two Protesters Killed In Streets Protests Over The Police Shooting Of Jacob Blake

Jacob Blake / Facebook

Updated: August 26, 2020.

Police have attacked and shot another unarmed Black man. This time the victim is 29-year-old Jacob Blake, who is still alive but fighting for his life in serious condition.

Video of the attack – which has since gone viral on social media – shows Blake attempting to get back into his vehicle when he is grabbed by police and shot at least seven times right in the back. The video tells a damning story and protesters have already taken to the streets demanding the police officers responsible be held accountable for their actions.

To many, the attack is further proof that the American policing system is broken and has no value for the lives of Black Americans.

Outrage is growing as video shows police shoot an unarmed Black man in the back at least seven times.

In Wisconsin, police have shot another unarmed Black man – which is leading to widespread protests. The two officers are on leave as state authorities investigate the shooting.

Video circulating on social media shows the victim – Jacob Blake – being shot multiple times in the back as he entered the driver’s side door of his SUV. Currently, Blake is in serious condition fighting for his life.

Attorney Ben Crump, who now represents the Blake family, posted a video of the Sunday evening shooting in Kenosha. The footage spread across social media, sparking protests and leading county officials to institute a curfew that remained in place until Monday morning.

The attack unfolded on a residential street packed with apartment buildings, a block from a city golf course. In the video clip, Blake walks around the front of a gray SUV with two officers a step or two behind him, one with his weapon trained on the man’s back. As Blake enters the driver side door of his car, the nearest officer grabs the tail of his tank top and seven shots are heard. The man entering the car appears to go limp. A sustained car horn blares. A woman nearby jumps up and down, apparently in anguish.

Jeffery Robinson, a deputy legal director with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Blake’s death – along with Floyd’s outside a Minneapolis grocery store, Taylor’s in her own home and Eric Garner’s in front of a New York bodega – demonstrates “the very institution of American policing is rotten at its core.”

Of Blake’s shooting, Robinson said, “With each of the seven shots fired, the police department made their intent clear – they believed they had the right to kill an unarmed Black man for the crime of walking away from them.”

Blake was allegedly trying to break up a domestic dispute between two women when police approached him.

In a tweet, Crump, who represents Floyd’s family, says the man was leaving the scene after “breaking up a fight between two women.”

Officers were called to respond to a domestic disturbance, police said, but it’s unclear who called 911 or what happened before the video recording begins. In a police call, a dispatcher says Blake “isn’t supposed to be there” and that he took the complainant’s keys and refused to leave. The dispatcher later explains she doesn’t have more details because the caller was “uncooperative.”

Blake’s own children were in the vehicle and watched their father get shot by police.

Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump said Blake’s three young sons were in the car.

“They saw a cop shoot their father,” Crump said on Twitter. “They will be traumatised forever. We cannot let officers violate their duty to PROTECT us. Our kids deserve better!!”

Protests are beginning to pop up across the country, as others continue to mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd – among so many others.

Credit: Guy Smallman / Getty Images

The attack on Jacob Blake comes as demonstrators continue to protest against police violence in American cities, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

The night before Blake’s shooting, protests erupted in Lafayette, Louisiana, after police killed a Black man – Trayford Pellerin, 31 – outside a convenience store.

In Kenosha, a city of 100,000 located between Chicago and Milwaukee, protesters overnight broke windows and sprayed graffiti at a Kenosha County administrative building, according to CNN affiliate WISN. Vehicles at a nearby auto dealership were torched, a fire was started at a county courthouse and officers in tactical gear formed a line to protect a public safety building, the station reported.

Before the sun rose Monday, numerous dump and garbage trucks remained smoldering on the street after being set ablaze. The courthouse and administrative building were closed Monday, and all court hearings for the day are postponed, the county said on Facebook.

Still, unrest continues.

During the third night of protests over the shooting of Blake, two demonstrators were killed after clashes with law enforcement raged outside of an Illinois County Courthouse.

After protesters moved their demonstrations outside of a gas station in Kenosha, Wisconsin shots were fired outside leading to two fatalities, and one person being left with injuries that were not life-threatening. Court documents from Lake County, Ill., reveal that Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, was arrested on Wednesday morning in relation to the shooting. He has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the fatal shooting . According to The New York Times, “Antioch is about 30 minutes southwest of Kenosha, just over the Illinois line. More details were expected during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com