Peacebuilding en Las Américas

Colombia: Emergency Appeal

People take part in a protest demanding government action to tackle poverty, police violence and inequalities in healthcare and education systems, in Cali, Colombia May 28, 2021 [Juan B Diaz/ Reuters]

Colombia at a critical historical crossroads

Colombia is widely recognized as the most dangerous country in the world for human rights defenders.  According to Amnesty International, “in 2020, killings of social leaders reached shocking levels.”

The risks to peace and democracy in Colombia have become more glaringly evident under the pandemic. An increasingly authoritarian regime has struggled unsuccessfully to respond to Covid and the accompanying crises in economic and public health systems. On April 28, thousands of fed-up citizens flooded the streets across dozens of cities to denounce President Duque’s initiatives to privatize health services and raise taxes on food, utilities and income despite prohibitions on protests.  

“What started as a rejection of tax reform (then) evolved into a wide protest for quality in public education, a comprehensive implementation of the 2016 Peace Accords, eliminating flexible labor, guaranteeing basic income, and respecting pensions for the elderly. Indigenous communities, social organizations, activists for peace, and ordinary citizens are also marching in the streets because of suffering violence, forced displacement, and racism with their communities.” Global Ministries Colombia DCC/UCC     

Demonstrators take part in a protest against the tax reform of President Ivan Duque’s government in Bogota, Colombia on May 1, 2021 [Reuters/Luisa Gonzalez]

Armed forces responded swiftly and brutally to the people´s protests resulting in widespread violence, particularly acute in Cali and Bogotá.  Human Rights Watch has confirmed that since April 28, 2021, there have been:

  • 68 deaths, including 34 deaths in the protests: 31 demonstrators or bystanders, 2 police officers and 1 criminal investigator
  • Over 1,100 protesters and bystanders injured 
  • Over 5,500 taken into custody by the police 
  • 87 cases of gender-based violence by the police 
  • 17 beatings, often with police truncheons, resulting in at least one death
  • At least 419 people missing
  • Over 1,200 police officers injured, at least 192 severely

Stand in Solidarity

The critical violations to human rights in Colombia unveils the fragility in political and socio-economic structures. The current crisis highlights the urgent need for solidarity with nonviolent social movements.  Peacebuilding en Las Américas (PLA) has partnered with peace activists in Colombia since 2006 to offer training in nonviolent conflict transformation. In the first five months of 2021, over 140 people in Colombia participated in nine Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) workshops. Our Colombian colleagues are eager to continue and expand this work, needed now more urgently than ever. 

Our goal is to raise $5,000 for workshops with youth and adults in the Department of Antioquía, and the cities of Buenaventura and Cali, at the heart of the conflict. This work depends solely on your donations. Please consider making a contribution today:  

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