Colombians mobilize against hunger and state negligence

Thousands mobilized against state negligence, repression and the precarious conditions that communities are forced to endure amid the global health crisis. The protests were attacked by the police and ESMAD agents

June 16, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
People marched in the southern neighborhoods of the Bogota and in the center to protest the national and local government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Johan González - Colombia Informa

Protests were held across Colombia on June 15, Monday, against the government’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. From the early hours, mobilizations began in different parts of the capital, Bogotá. People marched in the southern neighborhoods of the city and in the center to protest the national and local government’s management of the coronavirus pandemic. In Medellín, a large mobilization was also held denouncing government negligence.

During the lockdown period in Colombia, thousands of families have been suffering from hunger and lack the necessary facilities to survive. Movements allege that the national and local city administrations have been exceedingly harsh in cracking down on communities who have demanded dignified conditions during the quarantine.

In the city of Bogotá, during the quarantine, the city administration under mayor Claudia López has been involved in the violent, forced eviction of dozens of families in the Altos de la Estancia neighborhood in the southern district of Bogotá, Ciudad Bolívar. The majority of the families were displaced, victims of the conflict and have yet to be relocated to permanent housing, despite promises. The city administration also repressed a mobilization organized by victims of the armed conflict who denounced the government negligence and lack of conditions to survive lockdown.

Other concerns raised by protesters on a national level are against the continuation of the systematic assassination of social leaders, human rights defenders and ex-combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and their family members. Since the lockdown was decreed in Colombia, over 45 have been assassinated.

The national police and the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) heavily repressed protests in both Bogotá and Medellín. In the capital, police blocked roads and stopped protesters from advancing and proceeded to encircle them and detain them. In Medellín, ESMAD agents arrested several human rights defenders and members of the press, including a reporter from the left-wing Aquinoticias. This is in violation of the police code and the constitution.

Later in the day, protesters gathered outside the National Museum in the center of the city to denounce racism and the genocide of Black people in Colombia and in the US. The Black Communities Process (PCN), which co-organized the protest, has highlighted that the Afro-descendant community Colombia suffers from multiple forms of state violence including police brutality, political persecution and targeted assassinations, and systemic and institutional racism with state negligence of health, education and basic conditions of life for Black communities.

Meanwhile, the government has been involved in several high-level corruption scandals. Last week, the news surfaced that vice-president Martha Lucía Ramírez paid the bail of USD$150,000 of her brother Bernardo Ramírez Blanco in 1998. Blanco was accused of narcotrafficking in Miami. This scandal is further confirmation of the Colombian far-right’s deep and voluminous ties with criminal, paramilitary and narco groups in the country.