The people of Colombia have taken their disapproval of a new tax hike to the streets. The tax increase was introduced amid the pandemic and would have severely affected citizens, as the existence of a declining economy and surging unemployment continues to thrive. Those changes triggered Colombians to leave their homes and gather to showcase that they oppose those abrupt changes. The protests were intended to be peaceful, but they ended up being hostile. More than 20 individuals were dead (including a police officer) with hundreds more being injured.
The United Nation’s human rights office spokeswoman, Maria Hurtado, said “we express our profound shock at the events there and stress our solidarity with those who have lost their lives, as well as the injured and their families” and “we remind the state authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly”.
The tax hike laws proposed were eventually withdrawn after the protests that occurred. Regulators decided that they would back off from their decision, but this was not enough for the protestors. The protests that started with demands related to tax laws, turned into demands on a bigger scale, a scale that affected Colombians for a long time. Protesters also want solutions for declines in employment rates and the increased prevalence of poverty.
It is at least favourable that the government is willing to negotiate. The President, Ivan Duque, met with the opposition and agreed to engage in dialogue. But Colombians wonder if this is enough and question if it will actually bring any concrete solutions to the people and the economy. Some suggested that Duque should meet with the individuals responsible for the protests and listen to their concerns directly and without a liaison.
The anger that the people expressed is supported by their firsthand experiences that were exacerbated during this ongoing pandemic. The tax laws were placed to help the economy that was severely affected. However, this was not an acceptable option for Colombians. Given that the protests were brought to life to express opinions and not to instigate violence, there should be clear respect of that from both sides. The government and protestors should keep it peaceful. Dialogue that is effective, real and not tokenized is what is needed. If this is not achieved, worries from health officials about a surge in COVID-19 cases amid large protests will continue to exist.