Things That Matter

Dilan Cruz Becomes A Symbol Of Colombia’s Protest Movement After He Was Shot Dead By Police

As Colombians keep protesting the government of Ivan Duque, tensions are mounting due to the increasingly aggressive tactics being used by the police. The political climate in South America is extremely polirized at the moment, with waves of protests turning violent in Chile, Bolivia and now Colombia, where the Duque government is facing stern challenges that have led to unprecedented measures such as a curfew in the capital city of Bogota.

 Duque has at least admitted that the country has to enter a “national conversation”. But, at the same time, the conservative president has called for the “deployment of joint patrols of police and army in the most critical places”. Protesters argue that you can’t have both: you either enter a conversation or deploy the full force of the State. Multiple injuries and deaths have been reported. But the recent death of one Dilan Cruz is a momentum shifting event. 

The anti-government protests are being led by unions and student groups.

Credit: RCN Radio

Tens of thousands of protesters have flooded the streets of Bogota for the past week. According to DW, anti-government protests “are centered on discontent with Duque’s conservative government — a key ally of the United States, rumors of economic reforms, and what protesters say is a lack of government action to stop corruption and the murder of human rights activists”. Colombia has traditionally been a very divided country when it comes to the right/left ideological divide. The protests might have righteous motives, but is is hard to contain a movement.

As Reuters reports: “Marches have attracted thousands of peaceful demonstrators, but last Thursday and Friday were also marred by the destruction of mass transit stations, the use of tear gas, curfews in Cali and Bogota and the deaths of three people in connection with alleged looting”. Things might be getting worse before they get better as negotiations have been slow and sterile.

As CE Noticias Financieras reports: “Talks between the National Paro Committee and the government are stalled because unions demand exclusive negotiation and refuse to be part of a dialogue with employers and guilds that Duque convened as part of a “Great Conversation National””. 

A protester called Dilan Cruz has died after being hit with a police projectile.

As the protests led a fifth day on November 26, an activist lay in agony after being hit with a police missile. The protests intensified then, and have reached new proportions after Cruz died. Police tactics have been judged as way too harsh and disproportionate to the nature of the demonstrations. For example, the authorities used tear gas to disperse a crowd while the national anthem was being sung in front of the central bank headquarters. 

Remember his name: Dilan Cruz. He has become a symbol of the protest movement in Colombia.

Dilan Cruz grabbed a tear gas canister and threw it back at the police. Seconds later a shot was heard and he lay on the ground amidst screams from fellow protesters. He spent two days in hospital but died from the bullet he received in the head, according to reports from BBC. Dilan was only 18-years-old and had graduated from high school in the public institution Colegio Ricaurte the same day on which he died (talk about a cruel twist of fate). There have been dozens of reports of police brutality during these tense days in Colombia, but Dilan has become the flag of the movement. 

“Dilan vive, Dilan vive” is the new protest battle cry… 

Dilan’s classmates led protests towards the hospital where he died. With cries of “Dilan lives, Dilan lives” they denounced the human rights violations that activists have been subject to before and during the protests. On the corner of 19 and 4, which is generally a chaotic area of the capital city, there are memorials including candles, posters and graffiti. Dilan’s death also lead to a national strike. 

President Duque has extended his condolences… yes, really.

The president tweeted a message to the victim’s mother, grandfather and sisters. He also promised that an investigation would be launched to clarify the incident. However, some conservative voices have already started victim blaming, saying that since Dilan was a minor he should have been at home, and that the blame lays with his parents. 

Dilan will live forever as an icon of the protest movements.

Credit: somos_ugc / Instagram

Every movement or revolution has an icon. Dilan Cruz has become a martyr and his name will always be associated with social struggle and a watershed moment in which violence escalated and the world started to turn its eyes to 2019 Colombia and its many injustices, but also its voices of hope. 

Colombians Are Starting To Turn On Venezuelan Refugees In Their Country And Here’s Why

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Colombians Are Starting To Turn On Venezuelan Refugees In Their Country And Here’s Why

A Cubillo / Photo Alliance

Colombia and Venezuela have long had a close relationship in terms of culture, financial cooperation and migratory patterns. The recent years of economic struggle in Venezuela, product of the Chavista policies instituted by both the late Hugo Chavez and incumbent president Nicolas Maduro, added to US economic sanctions, have triggered a mass migration towards Colombia and other neighboring countries. Added to escalating prices for even the most basic commodities, shortage in basic services such as water, gas and electricity, and what international bodies have deemed as State repression, Venezuelans, particularly in the capital city of Caracas, have had to survive on criminal activity that does not only target the rich, but also those most vulnerable. 

It is estimated that as many as a million Venezuelans have fled the country in recent years. This is a massive number if we consider that the overall population of the country is roughly 31 million. While some of the richest Venezuelans have migrated to cities such as Miami and Tampa in the United States, or countries like Australia and Canada, economic migrants and refugees have looked at the neighboring Colombia as a new home. While most Colombians have been accommodating, understanding that forced exile is born out of need and not wickedness, there is an increasing number who is feeling frustrated with the current situation and are blaming Venezuelan migrants for it. Remember, when things go wrong human beings tend to blame those who are different. 

The protests in Colombia highlighted the social and economic problems being faced by the country.

Credit: Al Jazeera Latin America

The recent wave of protests in Colombia, particularly in the capital city of Bogota, have put the spotlight on the socioeconomic differences that have made society increasingly polarized. The crackdown on unions, students and activists has also brought attention to the increasingly repressive methods of the Ivan Duque presidency.

Added to this, violence against vulnerable groups is increasing, as reported by Al Jazeera: “Tension has been simmering for months amid discontent over inequality, education and Duque’s slow implementation of a 2016 peace deal, which was signed between the previous government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and brought an end to 50 years of fighting. More than 750 indigenous leaders and human rights activists have been killed in Colombia over the past two years, according to local think-tank INDEPAZ.”

The current climate is ripe for a conflict that could last for years if all the involved parties fail to reach even the most basic of agreements. Frustration is running high. And we know that frustration is usually a trigger for discrimination.

So some people are blaming the increased influx of Venezuelan migrants and refugees.

In a recent article published by Reuters, a side effect of the conflicted political climate in Colombia was brought to attention: the growing discrimination against Venezuelan migrants.

In the article, a young Venezuelan called Daniels Herrera told journalist Steven Grattan how he and other migrants have heard people blame Venezuelans for the Colombia’s troubles, claiming that it is Venezuelans who run the country. This has made Herrera and others like him feel unsafe even if coming from Caracas, by all accounts one of the most dangerous cities in the world. They have decided to remain silent, speak as little as possible so their accent won’t give them away.

This basically leads to situations such as the one that African and Middle Eastern refugees are living in Europe, where xenophobia is high and a cruel reminder of the division that led unspeakable atrocities during the Second World War.  

Discrimination is a quick slippery slope.

The Reuters article explains that the looting and vandalism that has been triggered by the protests is now being blamed on Venezuelan migrants, which of course has gotten the most conservative members of Colombian society all riled up. They have been quick to point fingers, as Reuters argues: “Non-governmental organizations and researchers say rumors blaming Venezuelan migrants for isolated looting and vandalism connected to the protests have caused a sharp rise in xenophobia over the last 10 days. Posts on social media and messages forwarded on messaging application WhatsApp – many mentioning Venezuelans – stoked panic among Bogota residents on the night of the curfew, as the city’s emergency line was inundated with calls reporting residential break-ins that police say never happened.”

Discrimination and panic are fires that are hard to put out once they start burning. Now Venezuelans are fearful that they will become the scapegoats for whatever goes wrong in Colombia. Discrimination starts on the street level, as part of everyday talk, but can very rapidly become instituted in policies that result in unfair judicial processes and policing that singles out individuals due to their accent or physical appearance. Does this sound familiar to those Latinos living in the United States, where Brown and Black folk are often targeted by the authorities? 

Cheerleader Wins $145,000 Settlement After She Was Booted From Team For Taking A Knee

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Cheerleader Wins $145,000 Settlement After She Was Booted From Team For Taking A Knee

tommiaxo / Instagram

Back in 2016, American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick made waves and history when he protested against racial injustice and systematic oppression. During the United States national anthem, the star football player took a stand against the injustices by taking a knee. The act of protest set off a wave of similar acts with athletes from other sports including soccer, baseball, basketball and ice hockey taking similar actions. The acts of protest have not only sparked debate about using sporting events to highlight social issues they’ve also sparked talks about patriotism and respect. Moreover, they’ve also caused lawsuits.

College cheerleader, Tommia Dean, recently received a $145,000 payout after she was punished for her silent protest back in 2017.

The now 21-year old had been a cheerleader for Kennesaw State University, Georgia and had been inspired by  Kaepernick’s similar protests and decided to take a new during a game. In response to her protest, her university banned Dean and four other cheerleaders, known in the media as the ‘Kennesaw Five,’ from the football field during the Star-Spangled Banner for the next two games.

Dean hit back at the college who has recently been ordered to pay her $145,000. The school was found to have violated her right to protest. For the payout, the Georgia Department of Administrative Services will have to write Dean a check for $93,000 and another one to her attorneys for $52,000.

According to Marietta Daily Journal, “Dean listed KSU’s then-President Sam Olens as a defendant in the civil suit, alongside Scott Whitlock and Matt Griffin who worked for the KSU athletics department at the time.”

The agreement, which was signed by Dean and representative of the Georgia state department says that “a compromise has been reached… The intent of this agreement is to buy peace of mind from future controversy and forestall further attorney’s fees, costs, or other expenses of litigation, and further that this agreement represents the compromise, economic resolution of disputed claims and, as such, shall not be deemed in any manner an admission, finding, conclusion, evidence or indication for any purposes whatsoever, that the KSU defendants acted contrary to the law or otherwise violated the rights of Dean.”

In her lawsuit, Dean accused her school of violating her rights.

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That melanin glow 🖤💁🏾

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Speaking about her decision to protest, Dean told WXIA-TV in Atlanta that at the time, she had felt moved to take action through protest. “Before we went out on the field, we all prayed. Together, we all prayed. I felt like this was something I needed to do here, in Cobb County, as a Kennesaw State cheerleader.”

The issue escalated when the local sheriff publicly slammed the cheerleaders for their act of protest. Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren said at the time that t his wife cried when she first saw the protest. “We were both shocked to see such a lack of respect for our flag, our national anthem and the men and women that serve our nation, Neil Warren wrote in an opinion piece published by Marietta Daily Journal.  Dean claimed in her lawsuit that Warren and former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart were racially motivated in making sure that the school kept her and the other four cheerleaders from taking part in national anthem protests.