Stop Making Excuses

Mariana Posada, Copy Editor

Around 19 billion pesos a day are lost by the state when the country is on strike. All the delays this implies cost the country close to 0.7% of the daily national GDP according to Asociación Nacional de Instituciones Financieras- ANIF.  A national strike in Colombia filled the streets of the main cities from November 21 to December 19, 2019. The violent nature of some greatly affected the nation. When a strike occurs, some people take advantage of the opportunity to vandalize enterprises, private property, damage public goods and steal. In the heat of the moment, these incoherent decisions of one person instigate anger in others, creating a mass of people making irrational decisions. Protests should not bring in violence because it becomes a vicious cycle that is harder to end than the initial problem. 

The protesters went to the streets behind different purposes regarding the inconsistency of the state. However, many of them were just following a trend and going out without real cause. According to the organizational committee of the strike, people went to the streets to protest against the labor reform, the pension reform, the financial holding, privatizations, corruption, the national tariff, tax reform, for a minimum wage, and compliance with the peace agreements. These issues have been around for a while and the protests would have likely happened regardless of the president or his/her ideology. Colombia is in need of change, but incorrect actions destabilize the government and give it a negative reputation in the media by only showing one side of the story. Colombia is a nation with the potential to improve, but it needs the right tools to do so. People may be right to express their discomfort, but they need to know-how. It is not a justification to cause more harm. 

An example of vandalism that went viral was the destruction of the Transmilenio stations in Bogota. A former influencer known as “Epa Colombia” actively participated in doing so. The influencer – her real name is Daneidy Barrera Rojas – decided to vandalize the public transportation infrastructure in Bogota. Many people decided to follow her and more than half of the 138 stations that currently function were destroyed, making them inoperable for the community. The damages cost the government more than five billion pesos and Barrera could be facing a sentence of four to eight years for her actions. People who took similar actions are contributing to a domino effect that is hard to end. Additionally, the government’s capacity for action is diminished because the money they had predisposed for other areas has to be invested in making the transportation system function again. Therefore, it is impossible for Colombia to truly advance as a nation. As Carlos Mario Rodriguez, LTSA national manager said, it is “extremely difficult” to rearrange money that you were counting on for other purposes. The opposite behavior could also be seen in a handful of people. As they marched, they cleaned graffiti and tried to set an example for others with their actions. However, the number of protesters turned vandals was scandalous.

A concrete example of an enterprise that was affected by these actions is Almacenes Exito. “Exito had more or less 40 stores with break-ins. In all of them, there was damage done and merchandise stolen. Quick action with the police and internal security teams was taken, minimizing damage. The damages cost a little more than five billion pesos and, because of necessary closings, the loss of sales in those days was worth more or less 22 billion pesos.” As Rodriguez also claims, the losses during these days are hard to recover from and only make the situation worse for private enterprises and the government. This comes from the perspective of a big company with the capacity to rebuild itself. Smaller businesses obviously suffer even more. Some argue that people who participate in these groups have a necessity the state is not fulfilling and it is their way of showing it. While this is true, people should not take advantage of the situation to vandalize because this only hinders the process of positive actions. 

The strike showed Colombia that there are multiple problems pending to be fixed, there are people less privileged than others and there are inequalities everywhere. Despite this being true, it is unacceptable for people to damage private property. It degrades the dignity of the Colombian community and its government, and delays opportunities for progress and development.