In the first nine months of that the current president of Colombia Ivan Duque has been in power, clear discontent has been observed among large social sectors, which sense a regression that prevents large majorities from having the opportunity to live a better quality of life. In today’s Colombia, there is more violence, more repression and less hope, and the government does not support the peace agreements made with the FARC.
During the last trimester of last year, the student protests to fight for the universal right to education and to strengthen the public education system marked the awakening of various demonstrations in Colombia.
At the beginning of 2019, students returned to the country’s main streets to protest accompanied by the National Federation of Educators, which also advocates for the fulfilment of past agreements made with the teachers guild in terms of salaries, health and infrastructure in the education sector. Then on 18 March, a wide spectrum of political and social organisations mobilised in defence of the peace deal made in Havana between the government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
Mass protests took place that day in cities such as Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and Bogota to call for peace and to oppose Duque’s objections and the statutory law of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).
Some of the parties and organisations joining the protest were the List of Decency, the Patriotic Union, Humane Colombia, the Alternative Indigenous and Social Movement, the FARC party, the Green Alliance and the Alternative Democratic Pole.
Not only members of the opposition took part; there were also ex-ministers of the government of ex-president Juan Manual Santos and representatives of parties that supported Duque during the election campaign, such as the Liberal party and the National Social Unity party, who are in favour of the full functioning of the JEP as a negotiated peace measure.
The protesters warned in particular of the blow to the peace-building process caused by the the government’s position against transitional justice because of the legal insecurity that it promotes between the ex-guerrillas and the military that took refuge in that court.
They also warned that the objection to the JEP fuels hatred and division among Colombians, instead of uniting them in favour of reconciliation.
The archbishop of Cali, Monsignor Dario de Jesus Monsalve, is of the opinion that those who oppose the JEP should understand that the country is reaching a time when it is necessary to confess the truth, that the truth needs to be identified in order to correct the past, to process what happened and ensure it does not reoccur.
Unfortunately, Monsalve considers that Colombia is under the dictatorship of the upcoming election in October, which gives the country no respite and does not allow it to move forward. When everything is “electoralised”, it’s fatal, he said in an interview with the local newspaper El Tiempo.
The religious leader also warned that the country is exposed to a polarisation that is built on a wounded nation, a nation that still has a high risk of cruelty and of falling into the abyss of civil war and new violence.
In line with this reflection, numerous sectors of Colombian society were motivated to defend the peace, in particular by the JEP, and to support a national civil strike on 25 April.
The objection of President Ivan Duque and the governing party, the Democratic Centre for Peace Justice, challenges both constitutional and legal aspects which had already been resolved by the text of the Agreements, the Congress and the Constitutional Court, warn analysts in Colombia.
With this, the national government disregards the good faith of what was agreed with the FARC, the recommendations from the UN follow-up mission and the Security Council, as well as the good offices of friendly countries, said a local commentator.
In addition, 170 of the country’s labour, social and political organisations gathered in February in a national meeting in Bogota, together with the Unitary National Command constituted by the trade unions, to call for protest against the National Development Plan (NDP) that is being debated in congress.
According to estimates, tens of thousands of people mobilised on 25 April in workplaces, streets, public squares and roads to protest for peace and against the NDP, but also against the systematic assassinations of social leaders and ex-combatants of the FARC.
Regarding the NDP, questioning has indicated that it does not prioritise the implementation of peace, instead giving preference to privatisation and deepening social inequality.
Spokespersons of farmers organisations add that the NDP, which is proposed by the government for the next four years, strikes the heart of Colombian agriculture and impoverishes its communities.
Sectors of the opposition emphasise the cut backs made to agrarian reform, the lack of recognition for producers cultivating 60% of the food consumed by Colombians, and the legalisation of historical dispossession and inequality in land ownership. In addition to the aforementioned protests, there was also the prolonged Indigenous Minga of southwestern Colombia to fight for ancestral claims and which is maintained in a permanent assembly, in a repeated call to the presence of the Head of State in the department of Cauca.
(Translated by Lucy Daghorn – Email: email@example.com)