© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

SOS Colombia in Christchurch

Gerrit Gray Doppenberg
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Protesters at the vigil on Saturday  Janneth Gil

After increased violence from Government forces in their home country, Colombians went to the Bridge of Remembrance to say enough was enough.

Dozens of Colombian citizens in Christchurch went to the Bridge of Remembrance on Saturday to show solidarity with their nation as their Government increases crackdowns on the public. 

They held flags and chanted El pueblo unido jamás será vencido", translated as “the people united will never be defeated”, as well as singing their national anthem 

Colombia is currently in one of the longest Covid lockdowns in the world, which has had a detrimental effect on the citizens.  

The number of people living in extreme poverty in Colombia grew an estimated 2.8 million last year alone, and the lack of support from the Government is leading many to desperate measures.  

Protests sparked up after the Colombian Government, headed by Iván Duque, recently reformed their tax system to try to help debt obligations and fix the credit rating of the country.  

Janneth Gil, one of the people at the vigil said this was what the protests were all about. 

“They’re spending money on things like electoral campaigns and guns and cars. People are dying at home because some of the people can’t work due to Covid lockdowns, and they don’t get any assistance. 

After the announcement, people in Colombia took to the streets to voice their frustration.  

The Government responded with force, with watchdog group Temblores reporting 38 homicides and hundreds of acts of violence by police against protestors.  

A video by Amnesty International showed police using lethal weaponry at their discretion to suppress citizens.  

Interviews and footage of the vigil

Christchurch vigil organiser Natalia Cortez said they showed up to spread awareness.  

“We are being killed by police. We don’t have rights. We are being shot, being killed, which is why all of us all around the world are joining together to let people know. We are with you.”  

They represent a larger movement known as SOS Colombia, which has held similar events around the world to try to spread awareness of the human rights violations happening in the country.  

Although the Government rolled back its plan for tax reforms and Duque called for an open dialogue to stop the conflict, the violence continues.  

Gil said it would be nice if the NZ Government gave recognition to the movement and supported their call to protect and promote human rights.  

The NZ embassy in Bogotá tweeted last week decrying the evolving violence and suppression of civil rights. 

 

Amnesty International community manager Margaret Taylor said in a statement to Metronews the violence didn't end with the protests.
Attacks against indigenous people are rising and reflect what she refers to as the ceaseless dynamic of violence in Colombia.
Although some of the protests have been violent, Taylor believes the Colombian Government has overreacted, saying they responded with an iron fist - using police and military to stuff down all discourse - violent or not. 
Taylor urged leaders in New Zealand to use all diplomatic levers to call on the Colombian Government to stop the violence, and ensure the rights of its citizens.