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Colombia’s Summer of the Patriarch

With Manuel Rozental, Former Deputy Minister of Health, and Witness Radio Executive Producer, Camilo Perez-Bustillo

Photo by Flavia Carpio on Unsplash. CLICK HERE FOR EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Violence and repression have been a national plague in Colombia for more than half a century.

The latest turn in the vicious cycle came this summer when a post-pandemic tax hike aimed at the middle class and poor drove Colombians of all stripes into the streets. A peaceful demonstration, resembling a street party, erupted nationwide. The southwest city of Cali, population 2.2 million — 60% of whom are Afro-Colombian, joined by an untold number of indigenous people driven off their land in the past decade — became its epicenter.

Here, where racism and brutal police repression have long taken a toll, what started as a protest against the tax reform turned into a vocal critique of President Ivan Duque’s mismanagement and corruption. He responded to peaceful protests, largely by youth, with military-style aggression.

The United Nations, European Union, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International all decried the excessive use of force by police on unarmed civilians demanding their basic human right to survival.

In this episode of Witness Radio, Executive Producer Camilo Perez-Bustillo talks with Manuel Rozental, Colombian physician, founder of Pueblos en Camino, and activist with more than 40 years of involvement in grassroots political organizing with youth, Indigenous communities, and urban and rural social movements, to discuss the protests and their link to climate change, environmental justice, and the defense of mother earth.


For additional information:

Colombia protests enter week three as violence escalates

The Pandemic Strikes: Responding to Colombia’s Mass Protests

Colombia used ‘excessive force’ against protesters, says human rights report

Colombia government sends $3.9 bln tax reform to congress amid renewed protests

Amnesty condemns Colombia police brutality after scores of protesters killed

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