The recent demonstrations in Colombia have been called nebulous due to the vast array of causes being promoted, those who support them are being told to pack their bags and head to neighbouring Venezuela to thrive under 21st century socialism and while mass mobilizations take place, the government of President Ivan Duque busies itself with presentations focused on the Plan Nacional de Desarrollo, as if shielded from reality in a Colombian version of the Truman Show.
So, in the spirit of communication and increased understanding, here’s an update of events in Colombia since the start of the demonstrations and strikes on 21 November 2019 (#paronacional #paronacionalindefinido) until today, 8 December 2019.
- The strikes have fluctuated in their attendances from 21 November to 8 December, but they have been constant and not a day has passed without one occurring here in Bogotá. In fact, they have become more united and more carnivalesque.
- The government of President Ivan Duque is stalling and hoping for the start of holidays on 15 December to see this unsettled situation dissipate. The demonstrations may well diminish over the Christmas period, but should the government fail to address the demonstrating public’s concern, they will begin once again in January 2020 just like the student protests of 2018-19.
- Since the government has pulled back the ESMAD riot police and stopped treating the demonstrations as an insurgency, violence, vandalism and destruction has largely disappeared and peaceful demonstrations have continued.
- There have been several unifying moments during the protests, the first being the killing of student Dilan Cruz at the hands of the ESMAD, the second being police aggression in general and worryingly the third is the arbitrary detainment of 19 journalists between 21 November and 8 December.
- Should the detention of journalists continue along with the government’s failure to engage in proper dialogue with protesting parties, then we are strolling towards a dictatorial situation.
- In the clips available to the public where the President has engaged in his “national conversation,” Ivan Duque has been petulant and irritable. Obviously, under immeasurable stress, this behaviour has been interpreted as the president capitulating.
- Returning to the situation in hand, the government has still not realized that the country has progressed in the last 15 years and that Colombians who were born just before and during the first year of former President Alvaro Uribe’s first year in power as president, can now vote, and many cast their vote in the local elections this year. The 2022 elections could be particularly punishing for the far-right.
- On the topic of former president Uribe, the argument that, “we can now travel in Colombia and visit the finca due to Uribe’s mandate,” no longer resonates. Most of Colombia doesn’t have a “finca” and again, Colombia has moved on.
- On this same subject, this new and social media savvy generation, did not grow up in the darkest years of the conflict, they have a different world view which no longer relates to that of a government in siege mode. They are demanding transparency and change.
- It really does seem that the minority government is imploding and if it continues, without sewing some alliances with other sectors of congress and the vocal protesting public in the streets, there is going to be no solution to the unrest, instability and uncertainty. President Duque cannot continue to travel around Colombia promoting an orange economy and his government’s Plan Nacional del Desarrollo.
- To those who say that demonstrators should pack their bags and move to Venezuela, a worthy response is to say that no one wants Colombia to become Venezuela, people want to be treated with dignity and respect. The government, by failing to respond, is showing a serious lack of respect for a significant sector of society.
- No, not everyone in the streets is some sort of Castro-Chavista hellbent on destroying Colombia’s democracy, President Duque is accomplishing this all on his own. Here’s hoping that a charismatic centralist figure will appear to take the wind out of the, frankly noxious, Gustavo Petro’s sails before the 2022 elections.
- Just when you think that President Duque, with an approval rating of 24% according to pollster Invamer, is definitely the worst Colombian president in living memory – the bar is incredibly low – up steps his rival to the crown, former president Andres Pastrana to suggest that former president Juan Manuel Santos has designed some sort of plot against Ivan Duque. Santos all the while is shaking hands with Timochenko of the political FARC in the Guadalajara Book Fair, showing how far the two have come since the signing of the peace accord in 2016.
- Remind yourself of the demands being made by protestors here, there are too many for me to list accurately, but, suffice it to say that Colombia is in a period of serious unrest and the government has great trouble in understanding this.
- Give thanks that the noise keeping us, some more than others, awake each night is the cacerolazo, and not bombs like the Colombia of yesteryear.
For further information, please tune in to Ep301 of the Colombia Calling podcast to hear Adriaan Alsema of Colombia Reports explaining why the protests came about.
And for the time-being President Duque and his cabinet will remain in their Truman Show version of reality, but for how long?
Colombia Calling is an award-winning weekly podcast designed, organized and hosted by journalist Richard McColl. New episodes available every Tuesday, available wherever you get your podcasts.