Protests, State Violence, Human Rights and Social Crisis in Colombia

Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín, Alejandro Lanz, Gimena Sánchez and Lizeth Montero Piedrahita

May 17, 2021

Photo of protests in Colombia

Event Description

In Colombia, widespread opposition to a regressive tax reform led to a national strike, which turned into a nationwide protest against the government. Military and police officers met protestors with deadly force. Between April 28th and May 5th, the Colombian government deployed an assault – the deadliest in the country’s recent history – against the democratic demonstrations, murdering at least 26 people and injuring at least 900 more. 

This event brings together scholars and human rights activists for a conversation on the roots of the social unrest, broader human rights and social crises amidst the pandemic’s deadliest peak, and how to support the protesters’ demands for military and police reform and sociopolitical and economic transformations. 


Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín is a sociologist and anthropologist exploring the relationships between political systems, power, and conflict in Colombia. He is a professor at Universidad Nacional de Colombia and a columnist for El Espectador, one of Colombia’s largest newspapers.

Alejandro Lanz is a lawyer, human rights defender, and executive co-director of the Bogota-based organization Temblores ONG, which has played a fundamental role in documenting acts of police and military violence and providing legal aid to victims of state repression. 

Gimena Sánchez is the leading Colombian human rights advocate at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). She is active in promoting labor rights and implementation of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan.

Lizeth Montero Piedrahita is a human rights lawyer and social leader from the Cauca region of Colombia. She defends the human rights of peasant, Indigenous, and Afro-descendant communities.  


Organized by the Colombian Scholars Network in the US, and cosponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies (UC Berkeley), the Latin American Institute (UCLA), the Colombian Studies Group (CUNY Graduate Center and the New School for Social Research), the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (NYU), and the Colombian Studies Initiative (an organization of students at NYU and the Universidad del Rosario Bogotá).