Colombian police violated human rights during mass protests, which left 42 dead and more than 800 injured. Mass protests began on April 28 after the government attempted to raise taxes, cut economic deficits and raise funds for social services.
Colombian President IvÃ¡n Duque announced on Friday May 28 that military assistance would be sent to support the police and restore order in the city of Cali after the deaths of four people on Friday evening during the protests. Cali has become the center of the movement, which has grown over the past month.
The protests began on April 28 due to the tax reform announced by the Colombian government. Due to Colombia’s economic struggle, during the Covid-19 pandemic, tax reform was supposed to raise funds for social services. The pandemic has hit the Colombian economy hard and has increased unemployment to 16%. The proposed reform would lower the threshold for payroll taxes, which would have increased government revenues to fund social services. The government argued that the plan was necessary to deal with economic hardship and to maintain social programs. Nonetheless, many middle-class Colombians have reportedly been affected by the tax reforms and feared falling into poverty. In particular, the proposed increase in the value added tax on everyday consumer goods would have strongly affected the middle class. This would lead to the expansion of inequalities and affect groups in society, which are already in difficulty.
After four days of mass protests against the proposed tax reform, the government withdrew from the project, but protests continued against police violence, human rights violations, poverty and the health crisis. Colombian police have been accused of using force to break up protests, which began on April 28. The protest reached 247 towns and villages in which human rights violations were reported. Various human rights groups have accused the police of using tear gas and, in some cases, live ammunition.
The United Nations human rights office said it was shocked by the events in Colombia where police fired at protesters. Spokeswoman for United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Marta Hurtado said the UN had received reports of human rights defenders harassed and threatened as well as protesters injured and even killed in the city.
In addition, Amnesty International’s Director for the Americas, Erika Guevara-Rosa, said: âThe Colombian authorities must promptly, independently and impartially investigate all allegations of excessive and unnecessary use of force against demonstrators, which left dozens of dead and wounded, arbitrary detentions. , acts of torture and sexual violence, and reports of disappearances. They must also respect freedom of expression and of the press, and ensure that journalists can cover the news safely.
Meanwhile, the Colombian president has called for a national dialogue, in which the government will hear the concerns of the people, including political parties and social groups. This announcement is a step forward but did not prevent the demonstrators from continuing to demonstrate. Human rights violations by the Colombian police prevent peaceful protests and a successful national dialogue, which should be inclusive and democratic.
It is important to stress that protests and freedom of expression are basic human rights and that military forces should not intervene because they violate human rights and oppose the foundations of democracy. To ensure peace, violence must end and the conditions for peaceful demonstrations must be guaranteed.