Colombia burns: it’s not about “tax reform”, it’s about hunger and dignity


The millions of poor in an enormously rich country can no longer bear to choose between very little and nothing. They have very little to lose. The tax reform proposal of 2021 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A commentary by the Colombian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina.

Colombia’s system of government has been at permanent war with its people since the beginning of the 19th century.

It began as soon as the Venezuelan Simón Bolivar left power in Bogotá, when he found himself betrayed and to be assassinated. Among other things, he had brought freedom to Colombia, fighting with his troops of ragged braves, almost all of them Venezuelans, until the Spanish crown was driven out.  Prior to any other state in Latin America, Colombia’s political leadership and Catholic Church began to enact repressive laws to persecute “communism.” I am talking about the year 1920.

Colombia: eliminating internal enemies

But even if we start only from the 1960s, we can say that Colombia, without needing dictatorships and always under the patronage of the United States, has enforced the doctrine of National Security like no other nation in the region. President Kennedy, whose administration conceived and expanded the doctrine, congratulated the Colombians with admiration for their ability to implement it.

This strategy of eliminating the “internal enemy,” the political opposition, is still going on. And under this doctrine – read carefully and excuse the comparison – each Colombian president, after four years in office, leaves more dead and disappeared for political reasons than all the dictatorships that the United States has established in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, combined and in the period of 16 years.

Crematoria to crocodile farms were created to make communitarian leaders disappear. There is no other country in the world where mass graves have been found with over 2,000 people in each.

The paramilitary groups have been part of the Colombian government system for six decades. Trained in the 1980s by Israeli, British and U.S. experts, they were and are financed with money from drug trafficking. They are in charge of doing the “dirty work” for the army and “cleansing” the rural areas of possible opponents of the transnational corporations and large landowners who seize control of the country’s immense strategic resources.

U.S: fighting and buying cocaine

Colombia is the largest producer and exporter of cocaine in the world, despite the intervention of U.S. troops who came under the pretext of fighting just that; while at the same time the U.S. is the main buyer and its banks rake in 95 percent of the profits from this multi-billion dollar business.

Despite this, people keep affirming that Colombia is the oldest democracy in Latin America. Sure, there are regular elections, and as if by magic they close their eyes to reality.

I have been asked to write a text to President Iván Duque or to the “International Community” about the current repression (which has moved to the cities after always being concentrated in the countryside), but I cannot. The reason is simple: I cannot write calmly while knowing this reality and its roots (just as I cannot in the face of the aggressions against Cuba, Venezuela or so many other countries). It is impossible for me to use “presentable” terms.

Tax reform: “Protests should be directed to the President of the United states”

Moreover, any protest should not be directed to those Colombian mafioso and murderous politicians, because they are only the servants: it must be directed to the President of the United States, since he is first and foremost responsible. It is him who rules Colombia.

Thank you very much for suggesting this to me. Thank you for what you can do for this people who, despite the terrible oppression, including the economic one, fight every day and in every way. Oh, I am talking about the people, PEOPLE, not the petty bourgeois majority in the cities, who only occasionally feel what state violence is, but are ready to point out the “excesses of the mob”.

The people of Colombia have very little to lose

And in conclusion, I say to you: The tax reform proposal of 2021 was the straw that broke the camel’s back. These millions of poor people in an enormously rich country can no longer stand having to choose between very little and nothing. They have very little to lose.

The city that has risen up most fiercely in anger and wants to silence the terrible repression and crimes of the state forces is Cali, in the southwest of the country. To “calm” the protests they have sent whole troop contingents, on top of the thousands of soldiers already on the scene.

The commander of the armed forces himself directs the “deployment operations”.

It would be strange, but perhaps they have studied the history of the country and know that in this city the first cry for independence was voiced and the war to banish the Spanish crown started.

That was the first independence…

Hernando Calvo Ospina from Colombia is an investigative journalist and writer. He has been living in France as a political refugee since 1986

The commentary appeared in the online edition of

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