- by Richard Titelius
- The Guardian
- Issue #1963
On Saturday 15th May, the community group, United for Colombia, Perth (WA), held a rally in Forrest Place in the CBD. The spokesperson for the group, Karen, said it was important for people in Australia to know about the human rights abuses being committed by the state against their own people in protests triggered by the Colombian government’s proposals for tax reform. The right-wing government of Colombian President Ivan Duque is suffering a shortage of money that is not due solely to the pandemic but also to its rampant corruption.
Like our own GST, the proposed reform would have seen a 19 per cent consumption tax on utilities including water and sewerage, electricity, internet, and essential items including meat, fish, eggs, medications, and books. The minimum salary in Colombia is only A$335 a month. Thousands of Colombians took to the streets to strike, united in protest against these reforms, including workers, unionists, activists, teachers, students, indigenous groups and business groups.
The state responded by using police powers to harass, abuse (including sexually) and kill their own people, creating a humanitarian crisis. United for Colombia raised the case of police brutality. A young Colombian distributed a pamphlet that included a woman protester who was raped by four police officers in Popayan (near Cali), and the resulting trauma caused her to suicide. Outraged members of the community set fire to the police station and burnt it down.
Their struggle saw the government withdraw the proposed reform on 2nd May. However, the people continue in their protests, feeling that if they stop the struggle, the reforms will return and now, they must also rally against the brutal repression of protests.
Over 80 people from the Colombian community in Perth, friends and activists rallied in support of criminal and economic justice for their families and communities in Colombia. The Colombian spokesperson said they would need to have a judicial enquiry into the conduct of their police during this time. Since the 1960s, right-wing paramilitaries in Colombia have also been assassinating various union and community leaders who have been speaking out about corruption and nepotism, which has plagued Colombian society over the last 50 years. As this article goes to press the Colombian Opposition Senator Ivan Cepeda Castro has led a call to the International Criminal Court against the Minister of the Defence Forces, the President Ivan Duque and two Generals and also for crimes against humanity committed against the protesters and also knowing what was happening and not condemning the actions of the police or doing anything about it.
The CPA supports the calls for a judicial enquiry into the conduct of Colombian police during the recent demonstrations and a halt to the proposed Tax Reforms, including the withdrawal of a proposed health reform aimed at privatising health care.
The Communist Party of Australia demands the end of repression, which has seen several trade union and community activists assassinated.
For further information, use the #SOSColombia and #SOSHumanRightsColombia in your social media.