Colombia: For the anti-riot squad dismantling #SpreadingAntimilitarism

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Movimiento Antimilitarista de Colombia


Disclaimer: Some of the statistics below may change very soon, we are witnessing a massacre and we continue resisting.


For many years, Colombia has been a country where inequality and systematic violence have claimed the lives of innocent people. The armed conflict and the actions of the State have made the violation of human rights something that takes place daily, and we are even used to living in such conditions. In 2020, the coronavirus outbreak started and with it, Colombia and the world got involved not only in a health crisis, but also in an economic and humanitarian crisis. Thus, the structural violence that has permeated the daily lives of many Colombians began to reach the reality of people who may have been unaware of it or simply preferred to ignore it. It became clear that the State only listens during election campaigns and it only cares about people and their rights when they need a vote. Since 2019, people showed its discontent, tired of not being able to access neither education nor a decent job, but especially, tired of being massacred daily, becoming another statistic in the eyes of an indolent government. The pandemic was like firewood that lit the fire of tiredness and the desire to be a better country, or at least, to live in a country where lives matter.

One of the challenges the Colombian social movement has to face is to make the international society understand that the armed conflict is a deep historical tragedy, but it is not the cause of the structural problems the country is experiencing; it's one of the consequences of an economic and political model based on the extermination of the most impoverished. The social conditions uncovered by the pandemic in Latin America, are perceived today in Colombia as a time bomb fed by a record of 500 deaths per day by Covid-19, a late and precarious vaccination process by corruption mafias with only 4 million people who have received the dose (10% of the population), while the government shows total disinterest to reduce unemployment and systematically refuses to implement a basic income for the most affected populations. Colombia is in the list of the 10 countries with the highest inequality in the world.[1].

Ignoring this situation and the people demands, the government has made its priorities clear by allocating close to COP$9.5 billion pesos to buy 81,000 tear gas grenades and 13,000 bullets used by the ESMAD police, in addition to 23 vans for presidential protection for COP $9.600.000.000 ($2,546,486.43 dollars), 18 police tanks for $12,000.000.000 pesos ($3,183,108 million dollars) and 3 vans for security schemes for Army commanders, estimated at COP$812.000.000 ($218,649dollars)[2]. One of the first achievement of the social monifestations in 2021 was the resignation of the Minister of Finance and the government's announcement retracting its decision to spend 14 trillion colombian pesos on 14 warplanes ($3,714,597,190 million dollars). It's estimated that this money could be used to buy 300,000 vaccines saving approximately 150,000 people's lives[3]

Indignation about the humanitarian crisis that the country is going through has been reflected in the streets, a crisis which was aggravated by the tax reform proposed by the president Duque, which he called a "sustainable solidarity law". In this reform the government proposed to raise close to 23 trillion Colombian pesos (about $6.3 billion dollar) to supposedly meet the needs of the pandemic; the problem is that at least 73% of this revenue would come directly out of the pockets of the middle and lower classes of Colombian society.[4].

This reform proposed charging an income tax for people with a salary of more than US$663, in a country where the minimum wage is US$234. In addition, it was proposed to apply the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food of the "basic food basket", public services (water, electricity, gas), electronic objects such as computers and cell phones, farm tools such as fishing nets or irrigation systems, funeral services, internet service, as well as the increase of this tax on tools used to collect solar energy.

Thanks to the massive manifestations and protests, the government was forced to withdraw the tax reform bill and change its discourse, however, its intentions have been exposed, especially considering the systematic militarisation and repression of the protests.

According to information provided by the NGO Temblores, after 8 days of protests, 37 murders have been reported by the police, a horrible number if we take into account that in Chile, during 150 days of manifestations in 2019 about 34 people died, and in the United States there were about 30 civilian deaths after the assassination of George Floyd in 60 days of manifestations.[5].

Although these figures are regularly updated everyday, Temblores has documented the actions of the police reporting 222 victims of physical violence, 831 arbitrary detentions, 312 violent interventions that disregarded protocols, 22 victims of aggression in the eyes, 10 victims of sexual violence and at least 110 situations where firearms were fired against demonstrators[6]. Despite the deep militarization, the media siege, the restrictions to internet access, the impunity promoted by the mass media and the stigmatization of those who remain in the streets, the protests continue, people demand the resignation of the president Iván Duque, who is popularly known as the sub-president under the fearsome Álvaro Uribe Vélez.

These days of manifestations reaffirm that the problem is not the tax reform, but the eroded consolidation of a political and economic project that intends to perpetuate the war at all costs: it has defunded the peace process with FARC and has closed all possibilities of dialogue with ELN guerrilla, it has also renewed its military doctrine to control, no longer over due to theinternal conflict, but to control and repress the civilian population. This project rejected by colombian people favors the privatization of fundamental rights and promotes the spraying of glyphosate[7], as well as the exploitation of raw materials under the discourse of progress and sustainability.

Among the many needs of the Colombian people, today we highlight the importance and urgency of effectively dismantling the Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD), which after 20 years of its supposedly "temporary creation", has killed 34 demonstrators in the countryside and cities of Colombia. This dismantling is urgent in order to redirect the democratic order kidnapped by a paramilitary mafia in power.

That is why today we are making an urgent call for solidarity. A call that is being replicated by many people and organizations in different places, challenging the discourses of war and fear that today find an absolutely opposite correlate to the cultural resistance, the bets for change and the possibility of building horizons more in line with the reality of the Colombian people and their proposals to materialize peace from the territories, in diversity and dignified life.

Antimilitarist Movement in Colombia

May 2021

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