Welcome to Issue 57.2 of Digestable, your thrice-weekly mouthful of things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
Today’s news, fermented:
content warning: police violence and sexual assault
For the last week, Colombians have been protesting en masse. Initially, the protests were responding to a tax increase proposed by the president, Iván Duque. I am new to knowing about Duque’s record, but a little reading turned up a lot of excuse-making for violence, as well as a close relationship with Alvaro Uribe, the former president of the country (more on him in a moment).
The tax increase, pitched as a way to support the Colombian economy, would have placed a heavy burden on low-income and middle-income Colombians—anyone who makes more than $684/month—who have already been hit hard by the pandemic.
As is often the case under global/racial/fossil capitalism, ‘the economy’ is positioned as a neutral actor to be stimulated and bailed out, often at the expense of those who will never see profits from an economy’s thriving. I am far from an expert on the Colombian economy, but I’m also no fool—'helping the economy' generally means directing more capital to the top of an economic pyramid, instead of towards the people whose labor drives said economy.
And the protests say it all—people took to the streets on April 28th to protest this tax increase. The increase has since been shelved, in the face of these massive mobilizations, but protests continue, demanding improvements to the country’s health, education, and pension systems.
This a staggering show of people power, first mobilized to address a new threat to the public good, now evolving to demand meaningful and systemic changes. But it has also been a horrifying display of state impunity—the protests have become violent. State forces have fired openly on protestors with live ammunition, injuring over 1,000 people, killing 26, disappearing more than 50 others, and perpetrating sexual violence in at least 9 cases. There’s been tear gas, power outages, beatings, and torture.
The UN is alarmed; it’s unclear what it will do. There are a few things folks in the US can do to support, alongside the long fight to dismantle fascistic, violent nation-states and extractive capitalism.
First—keep your eyes on this, as always—state violence is all the more violent if it goes unpunished, and state forces are allowed to perpetrate horrors with impunity (this is true in the US, it is true everywhere, it is happening everywhere. It is in the interest of the state to suppress people’s movements, because the state is rarely created in the image of the people.).
Donate to http://tinyurl.com/SOSColombia to support protestors.
Caro, of advice and tarot fame, and a Colombian who has generously educated me about the country’s context, put together this action. Here’s Caro:
“In the midst of the brutality happening in Colombia, NYU is hosting a panel event with Alvaro Uribe, ex-President of Colombia. He is one of the main political figures encouraging violence against protesters, and has the blood of thousands of Colombians on his hands. He is essentially the Trump of Colombia. If you could join me in calling and flooding the voicemail of NYU's Government Affairs Office, I would be forever grateful! I drafted a super quick script below (feel free to use it, tweak it, or just speak from the heart) and calling shouldn't take more than 5 minutes!”
I am calling to urge you to cancel your event on Wednesday May 5th in which you host and give platform to Alvaro Uribe, senator and former president of Colombia. Over the weekend, Twitter took a post of his down in which he encouraged the military and police to use full force and violence against innocent protesters. The Colombian people are currently being brutalized by their government. Not to mention Uribe has human rights charges against him for his direct responsibility in the killing of thousands of innocent Colombians. I urge you to do the responsible thing and cancel your event hosting Uribe.
Take a few minutes to do some of these things today! I’ll continue to follow unfolding events as well, and keep y’all updated.
And now, a little needed lightness (and fluffiness).