During the presidency of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, there seemed to be some hope of progressive change in the country. With the help of far left guerrilla groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), more leftist and progressive legislation was put into place, showing potential for resident representation for marginalized groups in the country. President Santos even went as far as signing a peace accord in 2016 with the FARC to prove his commitment to creating a more equitable Colombia.
The idea of the peace accord was to give more opportunity and representation to those in marginalized groups. For instance, Colombia has spent decades attempting to erase the cultures of Afro-Colombians and Indigenous Colombians in the country. So, after several instances of protest and social movements, groups such as these ones would have been able have their needs met through the ways of their government.
However, the end of President Santos’ presidency led to the rise of current President Iván Duque, who has more right-wing ideology, it seems as though Colombia‘s road to gaining more social change has come to a halt. Duque has threatened to make more conservative amendments to the peace accord, something that Colombia’s far left groups are adamantly fighting against. Along with his rise in power came the rise in power of other right-wing leaders at all levels of government.
Additionally, there has been a rise in gang and criminal activity in the country, causing community organizers and social justice activists to become fearful of doing their work. Hundreds of organizers have been killed by these gangs over the last couple of years, which is unfortunate considering crime and gang activity had began to decrease in the last decade. Some community organizers have been forced to flee their homes in fear of facing violent reprocussions for the work that they do. These groups have gone unchecked by the current government, which is focused on instead undoing the work of progressive activists in the country. Many of these organizers have either taken extra precaution in regard to their work, or have abandoned it altogether. But to them, one thing is clear: the current government is somewhat responsible for the uptick in violence in the country.
The COVID-19 pandemic is now also being used as an excuse for pushing back against the peace accord. The current government claims that the peace accord is not a priority during the time of the pandemic, even though the opposition against the peace accord as been evidence since before the pandemic. So, it can be said that the pandemic this being used as a scapegoat for the lack of movement with enacting the policies in the peace accord. However, this does not seem to be the best move on the government’s part, as the increase in cases in the country caused for the shutdown of several businesses, particularly industrial ones. This resulted in many Colombians losing their jobs with little to no financial support from the government, adding to their frustrations.
The FARC are now being pressured to leave positions of power and Congress, ultimately making more room for gangs and other criminal groups to control the areas that the FARC once had control over. Additionally, they are also being asked to turn in their weapons and equitment, which is a huge turn around from the level of power that they once had.
At this point, it seems as though Colombians are having a difficult time trusting their government. The current state of the tension between the Colombian people and its government and its law enforcement can be seen as similar to that of the United States, who has also been facing distrust of its people based off of the actions of law enforcement. This initially started with a of protests, where Colombians were in opposition of the government’s decision to reduce benefits for retirees and workers. This movement was called the #21N, since it began on November 21, 2019. The movement quickly grew in support and traction, leading the government to have law enforcement take action against the protesters. However, these orders ended in the death of a protestor, bringing the protests to a climax and also giving the protestors another reason to protest. Colombians understood that they were supposed to challenge their government, but this act of police brutality pushed them over the edge. This has only escalated the problems that Colombians have had with their government, causing them to call for democracy now more than ever.
One can’t help but to wonder what the future looks like for the Colombian people, particularly for those among marginalized groups. Will Colombian citizens and activists pushback enough against their government to be able to enact progressive change? Or will Colombian continue to rise towards more conservative ideology, pushing those with marginalized identities back into the shadows?
Gil, Laura. “Opinion | Colombia’s Government Is Using the Coronavirus to Weaken the Historic
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Sandra Botero, Silvia Otero Bahamón. “Analysis | Colombia Is Having Its Largest Wave of
Protests in Recent Decades. Why?” The Washington Post, WP Company, 5 Dec. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/12/05/colombia-is-having-its-largest-wave-protests-recent-decades-why/?outputType=amp.
“Colombia.” Freedom House, freedomhouse.org/country/colombia/freedom-world/2019.