The Current Situation on Colombian Protests
· The demonstrations started on April 28th in response to a tax reform measure proposed by the Government to mitigate the country’s economic crisis.
· On May 3rd, President Duque withdrew the bill and called upon all Colombians to act with a spirit of dialogue.
· The protests have continued and have become a broad call for improvements to Colombia's pension, health and education systems.
· As the second oldest democracy in the Western Hemisphere after the United States, Colombia respects and holds dear the fundamental right of its citizen to protest peacefully.
· Unfortunately, some protests have been distinctly permeated by criminal acts, vandalism and blockades that have affected the safety, health and supply of food. Colombian President Iván Duque has made it very clear that the Government will not tolerate any acts of violence, including those instigated by illegal groups and fringe actors that have sought to take advantage of this situation.
· We have lost lives; hundreds of civilians and police officers have been injured; and hundreds of people have been apprehended for vandalism or criminal acts.
· President Duque has also made clear that we do not condone and will not tolerate abuses or excess uses of force by members of the Public Force while discharging their duty to protect the safety of our citizens and infrastructure.
President Duque Meets with Protest Leaders to Respond to Concerns, Find Solutions
· President Duque and senior Government leaders met with members of the National Strike Committee on Monday, May 10th, as part of the process for finding constructive solutions to address concerns.
· High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos assured that the clear and express intention of the Government is to create a space that allows all sides to reach peaceful agreements.
“The the clear, express will of President [Duque] is to create a space so as to reach agreements. …
“We concur in the rejection of violence and zero tolerance for any conduct by the Public Force that goes against the Constitution and the law, but there is also a clear condemnation against any violation of the right that citizens have to their physical and personal integrity. …
“In this context, a new call is being made to the entire country to end the blockades that threaten the right to mobility, health and security. All citizens are going to continue to be protected by our Public Force, by the President and his entire government, and by a framework of the rule of law that respects human rights.” – High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos
· The High Commissioner also asked the demonstrations not continue to obstruct the National Vaccination Plan. “Even if we reach agreements, the pandemic does not admit negotiations or spaces for deliberation,” he said.
United Nations Among International Organizations Participating In and Supporting Discussions
· Carlos Ruiz Massieu, representing the United Nations, and Monsignor Héctor Fabio Henao, representing the Catholic Church, attended the May 10th meeting of the National Government and members of the National Strike Committee.
· The conversations will continue with the support of the United Nations and the Catholic Church.
· Ceballos expects a positive response from the National Strike Committee, which would have the presence and support of the United Nations and the Catholic Church to find basic rules, fundamental for any type of meeting.
Meetings Held with Different Groups Across the Country
· The May 10th meeting between the National Government and the National Strike Committee is just one of many that have taken place to address the concerns of protesters and find constructive solutions.
· President Duque has met with:
o Young people
On May 11th, President Duque announced that “we have made an efficient budget reassignment to guarantee, from now on, starting on the second semester of 2021 free tuition in public universities, technical and technological colleges for low income students.”
o Religious leaders
o Health guilds
o Safety council in Cali
o Governors and mayors
· The Ministry of the Interior is advancing in dialogue with indigenous communities and leaders in the Cauca Valley to lift blockades on the roads.
· The dialogue will continue until a mutually approved agreement is reached.
The United States Stands By Its Partner in Democracy
· In a U.S. State Department briefing, spokesperson Ned Price made clear that the United States stands with its partner in democracy.
“We welcome the Colombian Government’s proposal to bring together stakeholders in political dialogue and … we encourage full participation in those talks.
“And we’ll continue to address these issues through peace and political dialogue in a way that puts human rights at the core of that policy going forward. …
“We have continued to engage with our Colombian partners on this. We have done this from the State Department here, from our embassy in Bogota, and that won’t change. We’ll continue to be engaged.” – U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price