Take Action to Stop Police Violence and Systematic Militarization in Colombia


On April 28th, a sweeping coalition of organizations and individuals began a national strike in Colombia. For a week, protesters have been flooding the streets contesting a harmful tax reform bill and a myriad of other social concerns, including a lack of governmental resources for social programs and the continuous assassination of social leaders. The tax reform proposal threatened a 19% tax increase on utilities as well as basic products. This burden would largely be felt by the working and middle classes who are already facing the brunt of COVID-19 economic impacts. In response to protests, on Sunday, May 2, President Iván Duque announced that he would withdraw the proposed tax reform. Protesters have continued to mobilize to raise global awareness and demand action against the repressive politics of the Duque administration and the continued assassination of human rights defenders.

These protests have been met with indiscriminate violence by the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad of the Colombian National Police (ESMAD) and the police. Up until May 5, National Human Rights organizations reported at least 37 killed, 1708 reports of police brutality, more than 800 arbitrary detentions and 10 victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by the police, ESMAD and the army. It is likely that these figures are underestimated due to fear of reporting, especially for crimes related to gender-based violence. Marcelo Agredo, a 17-year-old student was shot in the head protesting for a new future. This is just one of the 31 lives taken by State violence in Colombia over the past week. Some communities in Cali reported that water, electricity and internet services have been cut off.

For years, the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective has documented the cruel and excessive use of force by the ESMAD, the Colombian military, and other state troops such as the Grupos Operativos Especiales de Seguridad (GOES) of the police. We continue to see the connections between US policies that have helped create and fund these institutions and systematic violence used to repress calls for social change.