Written by Nolan Alisago (News Writer)
Nationwide protests in Colombia continue to grow, despite bloody and violent repression from the state. After initial success in pressuring the country’s government into rescinding its plan for a tax bill that targeted the poor, demonstrations have evolved into demanding. As the protest continues for days on end, blocking roads and slowing down the country, the government has taken to increasingly violent and excessive means of dispersing crowds.
It all began in late April, when Union Leaders called for a general strike to protest a proposed tax reform bill that aimed to heal the destroyed pandemic economy of Colombia by increasing taxes on the poor and the essential goods that they need to scrape by. Upon the outbreak of mass protest, Colombia’s government withdrew the proposal, but at that point it was too late. Protesters wanted more from the government who had failed miserably during Covid-19, and whose initial response to protest prior to dropping their proposal was violent suppression via military force. The police and ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron or Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios) are now responsible for killing over 30 people, injuring nearly 1000 people, and accused of being responsible for the disappearances of over 100 more.
A plethora of evidence has been captured and released by various human rights organizations via video documentation of police killings. This brutality has been the source of both protest in the nation as well as condemnation outside Colombia, from various human rights groups to massive institutions like the United Nations and the European Union. Yet the blood spilled by ESMAD does not solely flow over Colombian leader’s hands, it runs red over the White House. Over twenty years ago, when Joe Biden was in the Forign Relations committee in the Senate, he championed Plan Colombia, an extension of the U.S’s war on drugs that aimed to combat cartels and left wing insurgent groups in the global south by giving training and military equipment to police. The officers trained, equipped, and supported by the United States now harass, assault, and murder on the streets of Colombia in the name of keeping the peace. While the incompetence of Colombia’s right wing government is certainly to blame for this violence, American Imperialism is not blameless.