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No more deaths and violence: Colombians need to move toward an informed and inclusive dialogue

Issued by Transparency International Colombia

Transparencia por Colombia, Transparency International’s national chapter, condemns the deaths and unjustified aggressions that have taken place in Colombia during the recent protests. We reject all forms of violence that affect citizen demonstrations, and we call on public institutions to guarantee the right to civic participation, including to protest.

For several years, Transparencia por Colombia has monitored the conditions that allow Colombians to oversee the use of power and be part of a democratic system of checks and balances. These conditions include, among others, guarantees of the right of access to public information, freedom of expression, the right to civic participation, and respect for human rights.

These conditions have deteriorated in recent years and continue to be undermined in the midst of the current situation in the country. This is due to increasing barriers to citizen mobilisation, the violence of those seeking to tarnish the exercise of civic duty, and the excessive use force by authorities in different Colombian cities, which has already been severely criticised by international organisations.

The broad rejection of the government's recent tax reform proposal led to wider protests on ongoing social, political and economic injustices. The government had not sufficiently addressed these, including through attempts like November 2019’s "National Conversation", which President Ivan Duque proposed. Citizens have been put under additional, intense strain by the pandemic, which has caused an unprecedented health and economic crisis – poverty is affecting more than 21 million people and social inequality is at a never seen before level.

The widespread citizen mobilisations, as well as the multiple attempts by academics, experts, business associations and other voices to propose solutions to the situation, have contrasted with public institutions that seem far removed from this dialogue. In addition, the limited reaction of the Inspector General of the Nation and the Ombudsman's Office seems to support criticisms about their lack of independence from the executive, as they are precisely the institutions that should lead the defense of human rights.

To address this situation, Colombia must move towards an informed and inclusive dialogue that provides solutions for the entire population, especially for those who are more vulnerable. This cannot be an unproductive dialogue or serve only to calm protests. Rather, it should rebuild confidence in democratic institutions. It must also establish goals and processes for achieving common good, as a priority over leaders’ and private interests.

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