Colombian student loses an eye in violent repression, the strike continues

Students in Colombia have been on strike for two months demanding that the National Government increase the budget for public higher education

December 14, 2018 by Peoples Dispatch
Students denounce the assassination of 226 social leaders in 2018. Photo: UNEES

Students in Colombia took to the streets again on Thursday December 13, to demand that the National Government address the grave budget crisis in public higher education, which has been the motivation of the two month strike in the 32 public universities. The march also had a broader message which was to denounce the persecution and systematic violence faced by social leaders and movements in Colombia, and the more than 226 assassinations of social leaders just in 2018.

The peaceful protests held across Colombia were again met with extreme violence and repression by the police and specifically by the Anti-Disturbance Mobile Squadron (ESMAD). In the city of Popayán at the University of Cauca the ESMAD attacked students with tear gas, stun grenades and baton attacks, while a police helicopter was flying overhead. Their disproportionate use of force injured dozens and left 8 in serious conditions. Several students were even injured while they were sheltering themselves inside of different buildings on the university campus. Esteban Mosquera, a music student at the University of Cauca lost an eye after the ESMAD fired a stun grenade at his face. Several other students suffered grave cranial injuries and have been hospitalized. Violent repression by the police was also reported in the cities of Bucaramanga, Valledupar, Bogotá, Medellín, and Cali.

News of the grave repression spread nationally and internationally, and today student leaders and members of the National Government including President Iván Duque resumed the negotiations that had previously been suspended. After hours of deliberation, they were able to come to a tentative agreement on several points of the plea of demands presented by National Union of Students in Higher Education (UNEES) and other student organizations and establish further negotiations to discuss other points. Although mainstream media outlets have reported that the student strike ended, student organizations have insisted that the agreement is tentative and the strike will only end when the student assemblies in each public universities vote to end the strike.

To read more about the student strike in Colombia and the reasons behind it:

Colombian students remain defiant despite massive repression against November 8 march

Students in Colombia continue their strike for public education

#SOSPublicUniversities: Colombian students on strike to defend state education