The tax reform promoted by the government of Iván Duque in Colombia has served as a catalyst for a protest movement that has once again led to scenes of tension in the streets of various cities. The Colombian Ambassador to Spain, Luis Guillermo Plata, defends that possible abuses committed by the police during these mobilizations are being investigated, but at the same time condemns the “vandalism” hidden behind “legitimate discontent”.
“What is not allowed and we will not tolerate is vandalism, it is crime,” he emphasized in an interview with Europa Press, in which he assured that there are those who try to “fish in troubled rivers” in order to To generate income from it A mobilization that will bring back scenes similar to 2019 and 2020 to the South American country.
The authorities have recorded around thirty deaths – local organizations speak of fifty – the vast majority of civilians, and Plata points out that it will now be necessary to “clarify” the circumstances of all these deaths in order to determine whether they are in the The protests are connected if they could be traced back to misconduct.
“If there have been cops who have outdone themselves and crossed the line in their actions, they must be prosecuted and investigated like any other person,” he says, immediately pointing out that there are already 55 open investigations and that in any case In this case it is an analysis that must be carried out “calmly”. “You can’t draw conclusions on the run,” he adds.
The ambassador, who called to see things “from a different angle”, recalls that of the more than 1,500 wounded on the official balance sheets, more than 800 represent the security forces. It also affects the damage done to public and private property and the large number of weapons confiscated: “Nobody marches in peaceful protest with a pistol in their pocket.”
In this sense, he believes that there are those who are trying to “take advantage of” the demonstrations, claiming that “the public authority does not come out to attack” but “is there to provide security to the citizens, both those who are march as well as those who do not. March “. He also defends that he has the right to “protect” himself from attack.
The Ambassador warns that in this context of violence, “anyone who goes out peacefully (to demonstrate) takes a risk”, as it can be seen “in the middle of an argument”. “It is impossible for the police in a moment of unrest to distinguish who is peaceful and who is not,” he explains, speaking of a possible “crossfire”.
The tax reform was the catalyst for the mobilizations, but Plata insists that Duque withdrew them “early”. The president even sacrificed the finance minister and is now relying on a process of dialogue in which, according to the ambassador, the government “participates with all the will to listen, to work and to search for common solutions”.
He noted, however, that “no miraculous solutions exist” and called for prejudice to be removed in order to understand that the demands of the strike organizers and the goals sought by the government with the failed reform are “not very different” as they are These include actions in favor of SMEs, the fight against the pandemic or economic recovery that focus on the most vulnerable.
“What is happening is that money does not grow out of trees,” explains the ambassador, who also warns that “it will take time” to resolve some of the “legitimate” demands made by the organizers of the strike in the burgeoning dialogue could.
Meanwhile, the protests continue. They have already spread to 700 cities, although it was in Cali, where “many factors are mixed,” where some of the most tense scenes were recorded, as well as the highest number of deaths. Plata explains that the current malaise in this area is exacerbated by “social differences”, proximity to Cauca and indigenous demands, and the presence of “drug traffickers”.
Plata reiterated the need for the government to be “self-critical” not only in assessing whether there could be police abuse but also in understanding that there might be a different type of “didactic” related to tax reform. He believes that with “humility” one can “learn the lessons” from a crisis that has put Colombia back into the international limelight.
Foreign organizations and governments have raised concerns about the events in the South American country, or at least asked for silence. The ambassador to Spain calls for people not to fall into “untruths” and emphasizes that “Colombia ten or fifteen years ago is very different from Colombia today”.
“I am particularly concerned that it compares to other countries with completely authoritarian regimes,” explains Plata, who launched his special communication campaign to get the Duque government’s message from Madrid.
Last week, the ambassador met with the Foreign Minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Cristina Gallach, who said in the Congress of Deputies this Monday that she was following the development of the Colombian crisis “very closely” and had asked “that the excesses that may have occurred to be examined.”
It was a “very productive” meeting that lasted more than an hour, according to Plata, who believes that the Pedro Sánchez government “got a better understanding of the situation” thanks to the meeting with Gallach. He perceived “solidarity” on the part of Spain, a country from which he expects one thing: “It goes without saying that Colombia is a rule of law.”