One of my students, Alejandro Palacio Restrepo, is a Green Party activist and a leading spokesperson of Colombia’s student movement. Their strike in the second half of 2018 won $1.4 billion in additional government funding for public higher education. Alejo received threats from masked demonstrators in November 2018, from the head of the cattle ranchers’ association in October 2019, and is now getting them from far right paramilitaries: ‘There’s nothing in our organisational design which prevents us from taking you out. Snitch-ass sons of bitches, you call yourselves student leaders you sons of bitches … We’ll be looking for you.’
Many of my friends and colleagues who live in La Paz are in hiding. Some have received death threats, while others are afraid to communicate via WhatsApp. One is in exile after vandals burned her house down. Because of shortages, the price of eggs has risen from less than one boliviano (11 pence) to 2.50, chicken has gone up from 15 to 35 bolivianos a kilo, beef from 30-40 to 90-120 bolivianos. Queues to buy chicken are interminable, and uncollected garbage piles up. Protesters have cut the capital off from its supply lines, and fuel is running out. Bolivian friends and colleagues who live abroad say they’ve experienced some of the worst days of their lives.