Time to stop ignoring Colombia’s lower class?

Many angry people were on the streets Thursday: indigenous people and customers of the controversial financial company DMG in Bogotá, customers of DMG throughout the poor department of Putumayo in the south of Colombia, etc. etc.

DMG’s director David Murcia has been captured and taken to Bogotá. His offices have been closed by the government. The General Prosecutor accuses him of money laundering for the leftist guerrilla group FARC, right wing (former) paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

This ‘Donald Trump of Putumayo’ as columnist Poncho Rentería called him was big news today. Supposedly he is very rich and bathes in wealth as the defense minister Juan Manuel Santos scornfully told the press. His customers are either poor people who took their last pesos to one of the DMG offices to invest them in order to gain money afterwards or more well to do people who just made a bet. It is said that there are politicians among them.

Of course the poor ones are the most tragic victims. The ‘big devil’ in the story are the banks and in particular the powerful Grupo Aval. People feel excluded from the financial system, because they cannot fulfill the conditions to be a customer. Others feel trapped because they cannot fulfill their mortgage obligations. Consequence: the bank seizes their houses. As a man in the street told to Caracol Radio: “It is a shame that I pay 300.000 pesos of interest if I want to borrow a million from the bank, but if I have a million pesos in my account, they only will pay me 10.000 of interest after a year. People feel disrespected and robbed and they are right.”

I don’t want to defend Mr. Murcia. He has abused of the despair of the poor people and the greed of the richer ones, but it is significant that many people see him as their savior and consider the government as their enemy.

It is time the government and the economically powerful in Colombia are going to bother about the poor. They are people too. Today it’s the Indians and the DMG-victims, tomorrow it’s the street vendors, it will not stop. People want to be heard and respected and they want a decent life.

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