Protests in Colombia
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing to examine from a human rights perspective the causes and consequences of the recent wave of protests in Colombia.
In April, Colombian President Ivan Duque presented a proposal for a tax reform that would have increased the tax burden on middle-class families squeezed by the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal sparked a wave of protests and strikes throughout the country that have continued since, revealing broad discontent with worsening poverty, inequality and insecurity. Similar protests flared in November 2019 but ended with the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020. According to official statistics from the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), 3.5 million people have been pushed into poverty since the pandemic began, with the result that 43 percent of the population earns less than enough to satisfy basic needs. The number of people living in extreme poverty in the capital city Bogota nearly tripled in the last year, while the health crisis has laid bare the extreme vulnerability of those in the bottom sextile of income who work disproportionately in the informal sector. Growing food insecurity, mounting rural violence and the state’s heavy-handed response to the protests, in which up to 47 people had been killed as of June 22, have further exacerbated already widespread anger and frustration. Some observers have expressed concern that actors inside or outside the country could take advantage of legitimate grievances to advance their interests.
Witnesses will discuss the underlying causes of the protests and the government’s response, and offer policy recommendations for Congress.
This hearing will be virtual. Pursuant to H. Res. 965, Members of Congress and witnesses will participate remotely via Cisco WebEx. Members of the public and the media may view the hearing by live webcast on the Commission website and will also be available for viewing on the House Digital Channel service. For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton (for Co-Chair McGovern) or Piero Tozzi (for Co-Chair Smith).
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
- Rep. James P. McGovern, Co-Chair, TLHRC
- Rep. Christopher H. Smith, Co-Chair, TLHRC
- Elizabeth Dickinson, Senior Analyst for Colombia, International Crisis Group
- Angela Maria Penagos, Director, Agri-food Initiative, University of the Andes
- José Miguel Vivanco, Director, Americas Division, Human Rights Watch
- José Cárdenas, Consultant and former State Department/NSC official
- Steve Hege, Regional Deputy Director, U.S. Institute for Peace
Submitted for the Record
- Campaña Defender La Libertad – Asunto de todos, Statement Submitted for the Record
- Letter from Reps. McGovern, Pocan, Schakowsky, Grijalva and 55 Members of Congress to Sec. Blinken Urging State Department to Clearly and Unambiguously Denounce Police Brutality in Colombia, May 14, 2021
- International Crisis Group, "The Pandemic Strikes: Responding to Colombia's Mass Protests," July 2, 2021
- Steve Hege, "Colombia's National Strike: Inequality and Legitimacy Crises Drive Unrest," USIP, May 27, 2021
- Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, "Duque's War in Colombia: High Stakes For UN, OAS, and Biden Administration as Human Rights Crisis Spins Out of Control," Just Security, June 22, 2021
- Human Rights Watch, "Colombia: Egregious Police Abuses Against Protesters, Police Reform Urgently Needed to Prevent Future Violations," June 9, 2021
- Oxfam, Summary and Recommendations to the Colombian State, "Women Defenders of Agricultural, Territorial, and Environmental Rights in Colombia: Risking Their Lives for Peace," October, 2019
- Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group, "Protests and Police Brutality in Cali, Colombia: Report from Latin America Working Group’s Participation in an International Verification Mission,"July 21, 2021
- Temblores, "Communiqué to the public and the international community regarding the acts of violence committed by the Colombian Security Forces in the context of the National Strike protests," June 28, 2021
- Noticias Caracol, "UN does not have evidence of foreign governments’ influence in protests: representative in Colombia," June 13, 2021
- María Fernanda Cabal, "If Colombia Falls, So Goes the Western Hemisphere," July 1, 2021.
- Maria C. Werlau, "Causes of the recent wave of protests in Colombia: Cuba’s role," July 1, 2021.