MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Colombians in South Florida continue to monitor the situation back home daily, as violence brought about by a controversial fiscal reform has hardly dissipated.
Daily protests continue even after that nation’s president withdrew the measure this past weekend.READ MORE: South Florida Author Brad Meltzer ‘Heartbroken’ After Pennsylvania School Board Banned 2 Of His Books About MLK & Rosa Parks
President Ivan Duque’s measure provoked more than a week of violent protests in which at least 24 people were killed.
“A major tax reform, which essentially was a tax across the board… So, the political timing of tax reform is terrible,” said Florida International University professor Eduardo Gamarra.
Even though the tax proposal was withdrawn, the anti-tax fire ignited deeper issues: Dissatisfaction with the peace plan that put an end to guerrilla violence, the economic impact of poverty which grew by 2.8 million people during 2020. The impact of Venezuelan immigrants fleeing their government and economic disaster, taking jobs away from already struggling Colombian workers.
“What Colombia is dealing with now alone, with the guerrilla issue, the peace issue and the pandemic would be enough, but if you add to that the Venezuelan migration that becomes more complex,” adds Gamarra.
The violence has been non-stop and the government has cracked down hard and there is another factor playing into the discontent.
“What’s going on in Colombia fills me with indignation, particularly because we have that mirror across the border in Venezuela,” said Kendall business owner Jesus Valencia, who has lived in the US for 25 years.READ MORE: CBS4 Nat Moore Trophy Profile: Monsignor Pace Defensive Lineman Shemar Stewart
Like millions of Colombians, Valencia, who fought against the guerilla in the 1980s as a member of the Colombian armed forces, is afraid that his country could become another Venezuela.
For the 22 years, the Venezuelan regime led by leftist Nicolas Maduro has caused millions of Venezuelans to flee that country and has caused the once rich oil nation to become one of the continent’s poorest.
Possible interference from the Venezuelan government is feared in Colombia, as most of the left-leaning protesters are perceived as ‘vandals.’
“Those vandals are egged on by and financed by the Venezuelans. By the Venezuelan government,” adds Gamarra. “At the same time, the police have overreacted instances of police brutality, assassinations even in plain light of day.“
The big worry for the US is that the far left is leading in the presidential polls for next year’s elections, reflecting trends in other South American countries, including Brazil and Peru.
According to the 2000 Census, there were 369,200 Colombians living in the Miami metropolitan area.MORE NEWS: Collins Park Garage In Miami Beach Achieves Leadership In Energy And Environmental Design Gold Certification
— Digital journalist Mauricio Maldonado contributed to this report.