Colombian national strike enters a third week

The national strike in Colombia continues to grow in numbers and in strength while the state responds with repression and persecution

December 06, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Thousands of Colombians mobilized across the country to reject the neoliberal and repressive government of President Iván Duque on December 4. Photo: Colombia Informa

On December 4, Colombia experienced another massive and historic national strike. Hundreds of thousands of citizens, peasants, students, workers, and members of various human rights, Indigenous, political, social and women’s organizations and trade unions mobilized across the country, to reject the anti-people, neoliberal and repressive regime of President Iván Duque.

The mobilizations on #4D (December 4) were peaceful and were characterized by pot banging, drum playing and dancing. However, several cases of police aggression, detention and repression were registered throughout the country.

The officials of Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) violently repressed peaceful demonstrations In Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Medellin, Pereira, Soacha, among other cities. The ESMAD used tear gas and batons to disperse the crowd, injuring hundreds and detaining dozens of people.

The mobilizations were carried out as part of the third general strike, called for by the National Strike Committee, after the failure of the second negotiation meeting with the government on December 3. The National Strike Committee is a platform that brings together dozens of trade unions and peoples’ organizations, which have been on strike since November 21 and have been continuously mobilizing throughout the country.

In the first meeting, the representatives of the National Strike Committee gave president Iván Duque a 13 point charter of demands. After the second meeting, the president of the Colombian Federation of Education Workers (FECODE), Nelson Alarcón, who is also a member of the Committee, reported that the Colombian government refused to negotiate or consider their demands. In response to the refusal of the government, the Committee called to continue the strike until the next meeting, which is scheduled for December 12.

Demands

The 13 point charter of demands includes the immediate withdrawal of the decree that creates the Financial Holding Company, which would privatize 16 public companies and lead to the mass dismissal of more than 17,000 workers. This measure is a part of Duque’s neoliberal ‘package’ and was passed after the mobilizations against these measures began.

The immediate dissolution of the ESMAD and revision of the National Police, is another major demand. In the past 15 days of anti-government protests, the ESMAD officials have killed 1 person, severely injured around 120 protesters and have detained over 1000 people.

Dilan Cruz, an 18-year-old student, was the fatal victim of state repression. The young boy was shot in the head from point-blank range by an officer of the ESMAD agents on November 23, during an anti-government mobilization in the capital, Bogota. He died in the San Ignacio Hospital in Bogotá after spending three days in the ICU.

Dilan’s assassination and the violations of human rights during repression of social protests have been condemned nationally and internationally.

Since its formation in 1999, the ESMAD officials have killed over 21 people. However, there are no exact figures about the number of incidents of violent aggression carried out by this Squad towards protesters, students, peasants and Indigenous people.

Other major demands include the implementation of effective measures to stop the genocide of social, peasant and Indigenous leaders, the compliance of the peace agreements with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the re-initiation of peace talks with the revolutionary left-wing armed group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), as well as the compliance of the agreements signed by the government of former President with teachers, peasants, Indigenous and many other trade unions.

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