Bogotá September 21, 2021. If the first two years of the Duque government already shown a deterioration of human rights in Colombia, this third year will go on record as the worst in terms of violent repression of social protest, reorganization and escalation of violence throughout the country, increasing poverty and inequality, harassment of the justice administration and the high courts, and international relations weakened both by the response to social protest and by undue interference in various political and electoral affairs in other countries.
This is the conclusion of the Review of the third year of the government of Iván Duque Márquez called “Lessons of the Apprentice – Authoritarianism and Inequality” by the Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (Colombian Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development), the Colombia Europe United States Coordination and the Alianza de Organizaciones Sociales y Afines (Alliance of Social and Allied Organizations). These three platforms bring together more than 500 social organizations across the country and present the annual human rights report, which has 35 articles from movements, social and academic organizations, as well as infographics on the most relevant topics.
- Peace, conflict, humanitarian and human rights crises
According to the report, throughout the three years of Ivan Duque Márquez’s government, violence has escalated in the territories for reasons such as the intentional non-implementation of the peace agreement and its unilateral reinterpretation by the government, the serious breaches of its components, the obstacles that the government has placed to achieve a negotiated way out of the conflict, and the ineffectiveness and defunding of peace-related institutions and bodies.
- In the first seven months of 2021, 60 massacres were committed, in which 221 people were killed (2020 were 91 massacres with 381 victims).
- Also, forced displacement in Colombia increased by 193% between January and June 2021, compared with the same period the year before; there were 44,647 displaced people during that period.
«Illegal armed actors have reorganized throughout Colombia and the escalation of the conflict has led to the worsening of human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis in many regions, seriously affecting the civilian population,» says Olga Silva, director of the organization Humanidad Vigente and spokesperson for the report.
- Crisis of the Social Rule of Law
For the social organizations that sign the report, Democracy and the rule of law in Colombia face immense challenges due to the onslaught of the Duque Government and its actions and measures that are detrimental to the well-being and participation of citizens.
For Ana María Rodríguez, deputy director of the Colombian Commission of Jurists (Colombian Commission of Jurists) and spokesperson for the report, “The president was endowed with extraordinary powers with the ‘State of Emergency’ issued at the beginning of the pandemic and with which the rapid processing of laws and reforms with little or no deliberation, in addition to advancing a campaign of discrediting and permanent harassment of the administration of justice and the high courts; and legitimize the excessive and violent actions of public forces without adhering to the civil powers and the Constitution ”.
- 159 people died in protests (87 of them participants in the National Demonstrations in April 2021)
- 90 cases of eye injury with anatomical and/or functional loss of an eye.
- 106 people were victims of gender-based violence by public forces.
- 3,365 people were arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture and/or cruel and degrading treatment during their transfer or detention.
- 48 people were reportedly killed by firearms by public force. 115, wounds by firearm by public force.
- 4 people were killed by tear gas and/or stunning grenades
- 2 older people died from asphyxia caused by tear gas
- 1 person was rolled over by a tankette
- 1 person died from being incinerated.
According to the report, the degree of human rights violations in Colombia during the national demonstrations was so high when it began in April 2021 (due to the new Tax Reform proposed by the former Minister of Finance, Alberto Carrasquilla), that it raised the need for a working visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) between June 8 and 10. This visit produced a document of observations that the government of Iván Duque, faithful to its anti-democratic spirit, rejected in several areas.
- Increase in poverty and inequality
For Aura Rodriguez, spokesperson for the Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo (Colombian Platform for Human Rights, Democracy and Development), “The national government, in the midst of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19, took decisions and measures that put at risk the fulfillment of the economic, political, social and cultural rights of the population: for example, national monetary poverty rose 6.8 points to 42.5%, meaning that 21 million people of Colombian nationality are below the poverty line.”
Similarly, “… extreme poverty increased by 5.5 points and reached 15.1%. Likewise, with the increase in the Gini index, groups with greater access to sources of wealth received a greater proportion of the income generated during the pandemic, including government aid,” the report highlights in its third chapter.
- As of March 2021, one woman was the victim of domestic violence every 11 minutes. Women were exposed to increased unpaid reproductive and care work. By January 2021, 19’968.000 people were occupied, 38.9% were women, and 61.1% were men.
- The situation for the young population is unfavorable. In the country, the young population between the ages of 14 and 26 represented in 2020 21.8 % of the total Colombian population (10’990.268 young people). And nearly 9 per cent of the total population is people between the ages of 20 and 24.
- Colombia and the world
Finally, the report details the main problems that the National Government has had in the field of foreign policy this year. Although a blunter response was expected, the statement by the State Department and the White House speaks volumes, highlighting the importance of the right to protest, dialogue and to de-escalate violence, in view of the numbers of missing persons.
At the same time, 55 Democratic congressmen of the United States Congress condemned the abuses committed by public forces and made a petition to the Secretary of State to suspend direct aid to the Colombian police. They proposed that the Mobile Anti-riot Squadron (Esmad, in Colombia), the main executor of violence against demonstrators, should not receive funds and that sales of weapons, equipment, services or training to the Colombian police should be frozen.
This image, coupled with the restructuring of international cooperation funding executed by Europe and the United States, where a considerable decline is expected, makes Colombia be seen as disconnected from the international agenda and without a clear route. This has profoundly impacted international relations and the full observance of human rights in Colombia.
- The incumbent political party ‘Democratic Center’ tried to persuade the population in favor of Donald Trump and his congressional candidates in Florida with their public opinion, shielded as the political force of the current Colombian president.
- The European Parliament asked the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Common Security Policy to condemn Colombia publicly. This redefines all of its financial policy and restructures the instruments of international cooperation.
Information for journalists
Director of the organization Humanidad Vigente and spokesperson for the report.
Plataforma Colombiana de Derechos Humanos Democracia y Desarrollo
Ana María Rodríguez
Deputy Director Comisión Colombiana de Juristas CCJ