Peaceful Protests to Unrelenting Bloodshed: My Video Journal of the Colombian Human Rights Crisis

This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Why are Colombians Protesting?

Iván Duque Márquez, the president of Colombia, has driven the whole country to misery since taking office in August 2018. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, he spent $9.2M (USD) on military spending under the guise of national security reinforcement. Once President Márquez announced sweeping taxes on the already on the already distressed Colombians amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Colombians took to the streets en masse to present a national strike in opposition. After over a week of peaceful demonstration, Márquez’s military power is now being weaponized on the Colombian people through the country’s riot police, Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (ESMAD).

President Márquez spent millions to reinforce the “security” of Colombia to prepare it for a non-existent war. This effort has made Colombia the second country in Latin America with the highest investment in military spending. In order to recover the millions spent on the military, the Márquez-led government wants to transfer the huge burden of their military spending on the Colombian people. Márquez announced a funding expansion of Ingreso Solidario, “a universal basic income social program established in April 2020 to provide relief during the Covid-19 pandemic in Colombia.” This tax reform project would add VAT (value-added tax) to the public services and collect rent from the low- and middle-income people. To express protest, Colombians peacefully marched in the streets in opposition.

What’s Going on in the Protests?

Once Colombians started marching against the tax reform, and despite Márquez withdrawing the tax reform plan, everything spiraled out of control when ESMAD was brought in. Instead of calming the protests, the police abuse started and the government sent in undercover agents to demerit the march and wreak havoc. Temblores accumulates the self-reported police violence data on their GRITA platform and they state: “As the violence of the State becomes more acute, the indignation of citizens grows, as do the reports of police violence.” After over a week on national strike, here is the price Colombians had to pay for protesting. According to figures collected by multiple Human Rights organizations in Colombia, systematized in the GRITA platform from April 28th to May 6th of 2021, there have been at least 1,728 cases of violence at the government, including:

  • 234 victims of physical violence.
  • 37 cases of victims of homicidal violence in which the presumptive aggressor is a member of the public forces.
  • 934 arbitrary detentions against protestors.
  • 341 violent interventions during peaceful protests.
  • 26 victims suffered eye injuries.
  • 98 victims of shots fired by police.
  • 11 victims of sexual violence.

Colombian Fake News Media

The Colombian media portray the protestors as vandals, misinforming the whole country. Here’s an example of one of two most watched channels in the country (RCN). The other most watched channel in the country (CARACOL) reported that the government is giving money to whoever hands the “vandals” over to the police.

ESMAD are the actual vandals

The Colombian fake news media portrays the Colombia people as vandals while, in all actuality, ESMAD members are the real vandals:

Los medios tienen prohibido pasar estas imágenes. Que lo vea el mundo. (Translation: The media is prohibited from showing these images. Let the world see it.) Video Credit: Alberto Ortiz Galind
Video Source: Valent

Video Proof: Colombian Police Brutality is a Human Rights Crisis (Warning Disturbing)

ESMAD has unleashed terror across Colombia. Even if staying indoors, Colombians remain terrorized by ESMAD and cannot sleep through the night because of the relentless and endless gunfire and tear gas explosions. There have been instances where the police has thrown tear gas into a civilian bus to suffocate them. There are a multitude of incidents captured on video of peaceful protestors being brutally attacked, injured, and shot by the Colombian police. Many areas of Colombia are in distress and there is a shortage of medical assistance. The medical assistance services are overwhelmed by the number of people who are needing them. Survivors of these brutal deaths painfully mourn the loss of their loved ones while the country remains in shambles.

Author Profile

M. Laura Rodriguez
M. Laura Rodriguez
M. Laura Rodriguez is a writer for NRN. Born and raised in Colombia, she is a system engineering student who works in data science and software engineering and a hater of any injustice.