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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‘Insecure’ Star Kendrick Sampson Shared Emotional Instagram Post About Experiencing Police Brutality in Colombia

Things That Matter

‘Insecure’ Star Kendrick Sampson Shared Emotional Instagram Post About Experiencing Police Brutality in Colombia

Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Anti-Black police brutality isn’t just a problem in the U.S.–it’s a problem around the world. A recent Instagram post made by “Insecure” actor Kendrick Sampson proved as much.

Sampson–who has been very involved in Black Lives Matter protests this year–shared a post with his 930,000 Instagram followers detailing the police brutality that he faced in Cartagena, Colombia.

The video shows a Cartagena police officer appearing to tug on Sampson’s hands before striking him in the face. The officer then takes out his gun and cocks it in a threatening manner. The entire scene is upsetting, to say the least.

The video was originally posted by Sampson’s friend, Colombian actress Natalia Reyes, who wrote a fiery Instagram caption condemning the Cartagena police:

POLICE BRUTALITY, this is my friend Kendrick Sampson @kendrick38, an actor and dedicated activist of the @blklivesmatter movement in the United States, today this happened to him here in Cartagena and everything hurts, not only because he is a friend but because that is the day to day of many, because we got used to this and that is NOT okay, it’s not normal, the police have the right to ask for your ID but they don’t have the right to punch you, dig in your underwear (as happened before someone started filming) and pull a gun on a person who is not committing any crime or offering any resistance, taking him to a station, not wanting to return his ID and even trying to admonish him? What if this person wasn’t filming? When is this gonna stop? It’s time to rethink the use of force.

@nataliareyesg/Instagram

Sampson reposted the video on his own Instagram account with his own commentary on the discrimination he faced in Cartagena:

Cartagena is AMAZING but this is the 6th time I was stopped in 5 days. It happens to Black Colombians often. I’m told stopping is policy but what is NOT is they reached down my underwear aggressively, slap my arms 5 times hard, punch me in my jaw and pull his gun on me. He then cuffed me and dragged me through the streets. I did not resist any legal procedure. Thank u for posting @nataliareyesg & for helping me through this. And to the person who recorded this.

@kendrick38/Instagram

Some of Sampson’s Latino followers as well as others who have simply visited Colombia chimed in with their thoughts.

One follower said, “I’m so sorry this happened to you here. Cartagena also suffers from racism and such obvious police abuse, I don’t know how long we’re going to have to put up with all this. This is disgraceful.”

Another Colombian said: “Colombian people are pure love bro … sorry for that bad moment. Police in this city think that his uniform it’s power or something like that, many police agents think that are better than you only for wear that uniform and that’s so sick my man…”

This Afro-Latino traveled to Colombia and had a similar experience: “I wasn’t hit this way at all, but when I was visiting Cartagena earlier this year in November, they stopped me and my other black friends and questioned us. No one else in my group (a mix of mestiza, fair-skinned Indigenous, and yt ppl) to ask us why we were standing outside of our hotel.”

Latino celebrities like Rosario Dawson and Lauren Jauregui responded to Sampson’s post offering their sympathy and support.

“I’m so grateful you were able to walk away from this altercation alive and horrified that that’s something to have to be grateful for,” wrote Rosario Dawson. “Police brutality is rampant worldwide and the violence must end. No more impunity.”

Lauren Jauregui simply wrote: “Holy f–k bro. Sending you so much protection!!!”

Colombia has the second largest Black population in South America, right behind Brazil.

Black Colombians make up 10.5% of Colombia’s population. The global swell of activism after the death of George Floyd stretched to Colombia over the summer, with Afro-Colombians taking to the streets to protest anti-Black racism and police brutality.

There’s a longstanding myth that Latinidad is “color blind” because of its shared history of European colonization and the blending of multiple cultures. But cases like Sampson’s prove that is not the case. Police brutality and anti-Blackness is just as real and pervasive in Latin America as it is in the United States.

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Here Are Some Christmas Traditions From Around Latin America

Culture

Here Are Some Christmas Traditions From Around Latin America

Henry Sadura / Getty Images

Christmas is a special time of year. Families have their traditions to mark the festive year and some of those traditions are rooted in culture. Here are some of the ways various countries in Latin America celebrate Christmas.

El Pase Del Niño Viajero – Ecuador

El Pase del Niño Viajero is a pageant that happens in Ecuador that lasts weeks. The parade is meant to represent the journey of Mary and Joseph. The parade highlights the religious importance of Christmas in Ecuador and is most common in the Andean region of the country.

The biggest and most important parade is in Cuenca, a deeply religious city. Citizens near the city have all day to see the parade as it starts in the early morning and runs through the late afternoon. This gives people a lot of time to make it to the city to witness the parade.

La Gritería – Nicaragua

La Gritería comes after La Purisma. La Purisma is celebrated at the end of November and is meant to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. La Gritería is celebrated in early December and involves literal yelling. Someone would shout “Que causa tanta alegria?” (“What causes so much happiness?”) People respond “La Concepción de María.” (“Mary’s Conception.”)

Las Posadas – Mexico

Mexican posadas are the most recognizable. Posadas take place in Mexico from Dec. 16-24, though this year they are most likely to be virtual. The posada begins with a procession in the neighborhood filled with people singing and sometimes led by two people dressed as Mary and Joseph.

Another part is the posada party. Before guests can enter, there is a song exchange with the people outside playing Joseph looking for shelter. The hosts sing the side of the innkeeper saying there is no room. Eventually, the guests are welcomed into the home to celebrate Christmas.

Aguinaldos – Colombia

Aguinaldos are a series of games played by people in Colombia leading up to Christmas. There are certain games that are common among people in Colombia. One is pajita en boca, which requires holding a straw in your mouth the entire time of a social event. Another is dar y no recibir, which is about getting people to take something you are giving to score a point.

El Quema Del Diablo – Guatemala

El quema del diablo is celebrated in early December and is a way of letting go of the previous year. People burn piñatas and effigies of the devil to let go of all negative feelings and moments from the previous year. If there was every to try a new tradition, this would be the year. Burn an effigy and banish 2020 to the past, where it belongs.

READ: These Seriously Sad Christmas Presents Were Worse Than Actual Coal

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