The people of Colombia have put themselves in a perilous situation for their dignity.  And many have lost their lives protesting against newfound and old injustices. The country’s government has proposed a new tax plan in the middle of a pandemic when 27% of the population lives in poverty. In rural areas, the poverty rate has risen to 36%. Combined with the egregious poverty rates, the unemployment rate in Colombia also doubled between March and June of 2020 due to the pandemic. The unemployment rate has exceeded sustainability: 16.8% of the population has been left destitute and without employment. Informal workers are also struggling: many are unable to work due to government regulations. The economic situation in the country is dire and the state is submerged in various economic pitfalls: the state of Colombia is currently 20 billion dollars in debt. The tax plan would raise food prices and further burden the working-class population.

Colombians were outraged by this development and began protesting President Ivan Duque’s conservative economic project. The protests have evolved to echo grievances against the Colombian police force and government, including forced coca eradication, healthcare reform, and the rights of informal workers. Adding to the growing list of human rights abuses, the police have engaged in violence against the protesters: 1800 cases of police brutality against protesters have been documented.

The United States of America supports Colombia in times of tyranny and brutality. The American government supports Bogota’s forced coca eradication campaign, and in turn, supports their war on drugs. In 1970s, President Nixon declared a war on drugs in an attempt to eradicate the illegal drug trade and the US began to extend its efforts on a global scale and reached Colombia. The American government has provided Colombia assistance in the political eradication of coca farms. The relationship involves mutual interest: $391 billion dollars is invested by the foreign government in technical and institutional efforts to destroy the plant and other services, including land reinstitution.  Coca farms in Colombia are targeted in an attempt to stifle the production of cocaine. Drug trafficking groups acquire their product from plantations across the country. Many farmers in Colombia cultivate the illegal plant in the absence of viable alternatives.  Other crops do not yield the same amount of profit as coca. The government has offered to find substitutes for the illegal crop, but the promise has not materialized.

The U.S continues to uphold Colombia as an important trade partner, neglecting human right abuses in the country: a mutual partnership between the two countries developed in the last decade and the Colombian government has become an ally to the United States. Their relationship was consolidated in 2012 with the birth of The U.S. Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA). THE CTPA allows for investment opportunities and eases tariffs. The U.S. government can export goods and foster a mutual trade alliance under the CTPA.  The United States is Colombia’s largest trade partner and has steep ties to the manufacturing and mining sectors of the country.  For the United States, Colombia also serves important interests in Latin America: the country is America’s third-largest trade partner in the region. The good trades amounted to $29 billion and service trades amounted to $11.7 billion in 2019.

The Colombian people have a history textbook filled with woes against the Colombian government.  The Colombian government has engaged in violence against different political factions, including right-wing parliamentarians and left-wing groups.  In the midst of the Cold War, farmers were inspired by communism and took up arms against Bogota-sponsored parliamentary groups. But the government entities were not upheld solely by Bogota, the U.S government also supported their political endeavors. The first violent confrontation between the two opposing sides occurred in Marquetalia, Tolima in May of 1964. The left-wing factions would later develop into the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia( FARC). The battle of Marquetalia had no conqueror. The farmers retreated to mountains and forests after their communes were destroyed and later established their political prowess as FARC. Many communist factions formed in later years, including the National Liberation Army.

Political repression permeates Colombian politics in 2021. The government promised peace when it signed a deal with FARC in 2016  and an end to the five-decade-long conflict, however, the declarations lay flat on ink: 300 human rights advocates have been killed since the government seduced Colombians into a false sense of security. It is unclear who is responsible for the killings: ex-fighters blame the state and the government blames the guerrilla groups.  Bloodshed between FARC and the Colombian government does not end with communism. The government was  lso in a battle with FARC over control of coca farmsAfter FARC disarmed in 2016 following the peace deal, different drug trafficking groups maintain authority over thousands of coca fields in the country. Through the lack of transparency, citizens of Colombia testify to being targeted based on false assumptions that they support the narcotics trade.  The world has forced Colombians to fight  for freedom of expression.

The United States government is culpable. America has supported the Colombian government unconditionally. Politicians have remained silent on the ongoing protests and the repercussions Colombians have faced for protesting their right to equity in all spheres of life. Colombians seek freedom in all realms of life:  the economic sector, the right to peaceful protest, and the right to safety.  All nourish the well-being of humanity.

The U.S. can help by ending technical and institutional efforts to eradicate coca and end the war on drugs.   The American government can also pressure the Colombian government to adhere to the demands of the people. External influence in Colombia is essential to saving lives.

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  • Aisha Malik

    Aisha Malik is currently finishing her BA in Political Science. Aisha’s interests include South Asian and Middle Eastern history, philosophy, writing poetry and learning about different religions.