Colombian leaders have lately enjoyed rattling off economic data, including an annual growth rate above 6% at the end of 2012. While GDP growth has slowed this year, the long-term view remains positive. Per capita income grew from around 4,400 euros per person in 2000 to over 7,500 euros per person in 2011, according to government figures.

However, Dr. Marco Romero, director of the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (CODHES), a group that works closely with rural Colombians, said that the bonanza was not the full picture. “Colombia’s rural areas have been left back in time,” Romero said. “Sixty percent of rural people live in extreme poverty, that figure that stands in sharp contrast to the reality in cities.”

Dr. Cynthia Arnson, director of the Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, agreed that many people felt as though they had been left out of the party.

“This is not like the protests in Brazil. These are not middle-class people demanding improved services. This is something more basic than that. Poor people are demanding the fruits of Colombia’s growth,” she added.


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