Colombia’s peace movement throws weight behind anti-government protests

Colombia’s influential peace movement threw its weight behind ongoing anti-government protests on Sunday, claiming “the very democracy of our country is in danger.”

The youth chapter of Defendamos la Paz announced their support of the anti-government protests that kicked off on April 28 as Duque ordered his defense minister to double down on attempts to violently quell indigenous protests south of Cali, Colombia’s third largest city.

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“Democracy in danger”

The peace activists said they formally supported the protests “to promote and facilitate peaceful protest in these uncertain times in which our country’s very democracy is in danger.”

Defendamos la Paz condemned the police brutality used to crack down on the largely peaceful protests and demanded investigations into reports of widespread human rights violations.

According to thinktank Indepaz and human rights NGO Temblores, they had received reports of 1,876 cases of the police using brutal force to quell the swelling protests.

The Search Unit for Missing Persons raised the alarm last week about the alleged disappearance of 379 protesters who had never come home.

Cases of police brutality

  • Police assaulted 278 protesters
  • 963 people were illegally detained
  • Police on 356 occasions tried to violently end peaceful protests
  • 111 people were injured by police bullets
  • Police murdered 39 protesters
  • 12 women were sexually assaulted by police
Source: Indepaz / Temblores

The alleged mass human rights violations have isolated the increasingly authoritarian Duque and have swollen support for the anti-government protests.

First talks with protest leaders

The National Strike Committee will meet with Duque on Monday, almost a year and a half after their first national strike sparked the biggest anti-government protests in more than four decades.

The collective of social organizations agreed to meet with the president despite Duque’s refusal to negotiate the National Strike Committee’s demands.

In a statement, the social organizations said they would initially “demand respect and the guarantees for the free exercise of social mobilization and protest, reject the militarization of the country and the excessive use of force by the police, the [anti-riot unit] ESMAD and the National Army against those who protest peacefully.”

The meeting will also by attended by representatives of the United Nations and the Catholic Church and will presumably seek to prevent and escalation of violence against the indigenous protests near Cali.

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