Understanding the Current Unrest in Colombia: A Conversation with Country Director Sara Matarazzo
In March of 2020, Colombia entered a strict lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown led to increased unemployment and low economic growth that disproportionately impacted low-income Colombians who lacked access to food and healthcare. Since the end of April, demonstrations have taken place throughout Colombia as people protest widespread inequality and poverty. In a conversation with Laura McCarter, Bethany’s Refugee and Immigration Policy Advisor, Sara Matarazzo, Bethany’s country director for Colombia, Sara Matarranzo, spoke about the ongoing unrest in Colombia.
What are people protesting?
Colombia has been hit very hard by the pandemic, and many people have not been able to work because of the lockdowns. People and families are struggling because they do not have the income to survive. On April 28th, peaceful protests in the country expanded in response to tax reforms proposed by the government amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These reforms would raise taxes on middle and working-class families, potentially adding to the hunger and unemployment many are experiencing in Colombia.
What’s happening to the protestors?
Some protestors have died, been injured, or imprisoned as a result and suffer psychological trauma, grief and loss. It is also reported that some places have lost internet connections making it difficult to communicate and understand what is really happening.
How is Bethany Colombia responding?
Bethany Colombia staff are impacted by the protests and other challenging situations including immigration from Venezuela, serving refugees and migrants at the border and in the capital, plus the COVID-19 crisis. We are trying to reach the humanitarian aid, which has largely been disrupted, making the dispersion of necessities like food a struggle. Providing aid to families in need has many limitations right now as it is not safe for staff to go out and families are scared to leave their homes. We are trying to provide hygiene kits and psychosocial support, but we wish we could do more, like help pay rents.
What is one thing you would like Americans to know about what is happening in Colombia?
The people of Colombia want the truth to be heard about what they are experiencing. We know the solution will not come in a day, but we believe it can come peacefully.
How can we pray/support Bethany Colombia staff and the people served?
Pray for each member of the staff, that they would have the strength to continue working despite the circumstances.
Pray for the youth and children who are getting caught in the crossfire of this civil unrest.
Pray for reconciliation and peace. Even if the roots of this conflict are very deep, we pray that the voice of the pueblo (the people) can be heard in a peaceful way. Violence generates violence and we want people to come together to pray and reconcile peacefully.