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Latin American Anti-racism in a 'Post-Racial' Age - LAPORA


John Jak Becerra is an Afro-Colombian man, born in Bogotá, who in October 2009 started work as a warehouse assistant in A.R. Los Restrepos, an engineering company based in Medellín. Over four years, he experienced what he perceived as overtly racist statements and acts by his fellow workers. He first confronted the perpetrators directly, but as the racial discrimination continued, between 2011 and 2013 Becerra made a series of written complaints to the company’s human resources office and managers, who said his claims were unfounded and advised him to cease his complaints. In March 2013, he presented an allegation of racial discrimination to the Prosecutor’ Office, citing Colombia’s 2011 Law 1482 which outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, political or philosophical ideology, sex, sexual orientation, disability and “other causes of discrimination.” Very soon after, he was sacked by the company, at which point he presented a claim for unfair dismissal and racial discrimination to the Labor section of the Prosecutor’s Office and to the Ministry of Labor.

Becerra’s complaint bounced through the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office for Labour Affairs, the Ministry of Labour and several courts, but his case was not resolved. Supported by the legal NGO Dejusticia, in July 2016 he took the case to the Constitutional Court, using the mechanism of tutela, which allows individuals who believe their rights have been violated to make a complaint directly to this court. The Court found in his favour in July 2018.

This case demonstrates the difficulties of carrying through a legal action against racial discrimination even when relevant laws exist: Becerra had to fight for many years and take his case to the highest judicial authority in the country before it was formally recognized that he had been a victim of racism.