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Don’t tax the dead: Colombia’s crisis

There's never a great time to impose higher taxes on funeral services — but doing it in the middle of a raging pandemic is an especially bad move. Yet that was one of a number of measures that the Colombian government proposed last week in a controversial new tax bill that has provoked the country's largest and most violent protests in decades.

In the days since, the finance minister has resigned, the tax reform has been pulled, and President Iván Duque has called for fresh dialogue with activists, union leaders, and opposition politicians.

But demonstrations, vandalism, and deadly clashes with police have only intensified. Two dozen people are dead, 40 are missing, and the UN has criticized Colombian police for their heavy-handed response.

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Colombia’s Angela Merkel moment

Colombian President Iván Duque earlier this week announced that as many as 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants currently in Colombia will now be authorized to live and work legally in the country for ten years.

As humanitarian gestures by world leaders go, it's hard to find something on this scale in recent history.

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Colombia's humanitarian gesture for Venezuelan refugees merits US support

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics on this week's World In (More Than) 60 Seconds:

Number one, why did Colombia's president grant legal status to 1.7 million Venezuelan migrants?

Well, because they have them, first of all. Because given the extraordinary economic collapse and the human rights abuses of Venezuelans under the Maduro presidency, not to mention the coronavirus crisis making their lives even worse, they've been fleeing, and most of them have ended up in Colombia. Not providing legal status means they can't work, means they have no path for a future. Some of them have even fled back to Venezuela or returned to Venezuela, and again just shows just how critically difficult their life has been. It's a humanitarian gesture of pretty staggering degree. It makes an enormous difference in the lives of these people. Think about how the United States under Biden now preparing to accept 125,000 refugees per year, up 10 times from what it was just a year ago, the world's most powerful country. The wealthy countries never get overwhelmed with refugees the way the poorest countries do. It's states in Sub-Saharan Africa and it's South and Southeast Asia and it's Latin America, and in the Western hemisphere, it's been Colombia.

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Colombia’s President Iván Duque on early pandemic response: “Multilateralism didn’t work as it should”

In an interview with GZERO Media, Colombia's President Iván Duque discusses early missteps in global coordination on pandemic response that he feels exacerbated the spread of the virus. "If we all had acknowledged what was really going on in Asia, maybe we would have taken faster draconian measures to protect the world," he told Ian Bremmer.

While Colombia was initially praised for a swift and successful approach to COVID-19, infection rates and cases have spiked in recent weeks as lockdown restrictions ease in order to alleviate strain on an already battered economy. In the conversation, Bremmer and Duque also discuss the Venezuelan refugee crisis, and how economic fallout of the pandemic has forced at least 100,000 to leave Colombia and return home.

Quick Take: A UN General Assembly without world leaders

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

It's UNGA week, very unusual New York to have the United Nations General Assembly meetings. You know, the city is locked down. It's almost always locked down this week, but usually you can't get anywhere because you've got all these marshals with dozens of heads of state and well over a hundred foreign ministers and their delegations jamming literally everything, Midtown and branching out across the city. This time around, the security cordon for the United Nations itself is barely a block, and no one is flying in. I mean, the weather is gorgeous, and you can walk pretty much anywhere, but nothing's really locked down aside from, of course, the fact that the restaurants and the bars and the theaters and everything else is not happening given the pandemic. And it's not just in the US, it's all around the world.

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