Residents in Bogotá, Colombia, have expressed fear and anger over a rise in violent crime that followed on the heels of pandemic restrictions, which caused inflated poverty and unemployment rates beginning in March 2020.
“It doesn’t feel safe anymore,” Camila Garcia, 23, told The Epoch Times. “My family lives in Rosales [in Bogotá]. It was a safe place to grow up, but my dad doesn’t want my sister and I to walk alone now. People have gotten more aggressive [since the pandemic], kind of desperate, and crime is definitely worse.”
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus killed more than 125,000 people in Colombia since the start of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. The government initiated a series of lockdowns and restrictions on March 16 last year meant to control the spread of the virus.
The lockdown drove Colombia into an economic recession in 2020, according to a World Bank brief. Unemployment rates increased by 50 percent, 2.5 million people lost their jobs, and the portion of people working less than 20 hours per week increased from 15 percent to 22 percent.
Arturo Hernandez, 40, lost his manufacturing job in May 2020.
“Just about every place that didn’t sell food was closed,” Hernandez told The Epoch Times. “It’s strange logic, though. How am I supposed to buy food for my family without a job?
“It’s not a mystery why crime is worse now. Less jobs, less money, but the same number of people need to survive.”
Monetary poverty in Colombia reached 42.5 percent in 2020 and extreme monetary poverty reached 15.1 percent, according to a report to Colombia’s National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE).
So far, the beginning of 2021 was the most violent start to a year since the signing of the peace accords between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, according to a report by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).
Armed criminals and public forces have clashed in 14 documented incidents, according to the JEP report. There have been 14 social leader assassinations and six massacres, as of Jan. 26 this year, the report said.
“My cousin was robbed in daylight a few weeks back,” Diego Rodriguez, 31, told The Epoch Times. “I mean, he wasn’t even in a bad area. He walked out of an ATM in El Chico and a guy with a knife was crouched, looking like he was tying his shoe, and just stood up and grabbed my cousin. The guy demanded his wallet and ran.”
Rodriguez was asked if he thought crime had gotten worse since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Definitely,” he replied. “How did they [the government] expect to shut things down and leave people without a way to make money? Just about everyone I know was affected, either lost a job or has a family member who lost a job. How did they think that would go?”
The government deployed 360 soldiers to the streets of Bogotá to assist local police with crime mitigation efforts.
Minister of Defense Diego Molano said, “We are changing reality, not just perception,” in a public statement released on Twitter on Sept. 15 addressing the deployment.
Meanwhile, a hunger strike is underway on the steps of the Cathedral Primada de Colombia and Capilla del Sagrario in the nation’s capital. Activists in Bogotá are protesting on behalf of their people in La Guajira region, who have been decimated economically and lack access to vital resources such as potable water.
Law student Jose Flores, 19, told The Epoch Times that the government claims not to have any money to help the people while the economic fallout from the pandemic response has been brutal.
“There is no water, no food, our children are dying, and it’s even worse now [this year],” he said. “They need to fix this.”
Colombia’s minister of defense’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.