Colombian Protesters Win Over Health Reform
Colombian lawmakers voted against a health system overhaul bill Wednesday, giving protesters another victory after 20 days of street demonstrations that have left dozens dead and forced the government to retreat on tax reform.
Health Minister Fernando Ruiz defended the proposal, saying it would give the health care system the tools needed to deal with emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 3 million people in the South American country and caused 82,000 deaths.
Critics of the bill said it could lead to health care monopolies by strengthening the role of private “health promotion companies,” which administer resources and contract services, and by allowing mergers in some cases of private health providers with public hospitals. It would have also increased focus on disease prevention.
The people’s struggle in the streets against years and years of injustice has achieved the shelving of a reform that would have destroyed health as a right and commercialized it even more in favor of a few leftist Sen. Alexander López stated on Twitter after the vote by Senate and House of Representatives committees.
The protests began with anger over a now-withdrawn tax restructuring that would have raised levies during the pandemic. Demonstrators later expanded their demands to include less inequality, an end to police violence and the withdrawal of the health measure.
Hundreds of people marched Wednesday in the capital, Bogota, with protesters heading to the iconic Plaza Bolivia, where the country’s Congress and the Palace of Justice are. For life and peace, stop the massacre, said one sign. Hundreds also demonstrated peacefully in the cities of Medellin, Cali, Villavicencio, Bucaramanga and Cucuta.
Today the youth, the university students, all of us together, are in the streets demanding a change in the country’s model, which protects industry, so there is employment for the youth, said Mr. Hami Gómez, a student leader at National University of Colombia.