by Miguel Lamas, 4 June 2021
On 28 May, a month after the start of the strike with mobilisations and blockades, the popular marches were huge. And the Duque government responded with brutal military and police repression by the ESMAD (anti-riot police) and armed paramilitary civilians, resulting in 14 dead and 98 wounded in Cali alone (UN report). He also decreed the militarisation of 8 departments (provinces). He failed to put an end to the blockades and mobilisations.
Despite the harsh repression, which has already left over 60 dead and hundreds wounded in the last month, the massive popular rebellion of young people, indigenous people and workers has not ceased and has entered its fifth week. The front line of urban youth, with the indigenous, Afro and peasant guard, has developed an organisation to resist the violent repression of the military and paramilitary police. They have doctors and logistical support, with blockades, shields, helmets… and also the popular assemblies formed in the neighbourhoods and many blockade points.
One example of this massification and new organisations of struggle is the formation of “mums on the front line”, who use black shields and wear blue helmets. They chant: “if our sons show up and go to battle, we, their mothers will support them and fight with them”. They march in the front row, directly in the sights of the dreaded ESMAD special unit.
Endless negotiation… as the strike and repression continues
The Duque government has been continuing negotiations for 3 weeks with leaders of the National Strike Committee (CNP) made up of the CUT, CTC, CGT and the teachers’ federation FECODE. The only demand made by the CNP to continue negotiations is for repression to stop and peaceful protest to be allowed.
The Duque government has already had to back down in the face of the gigantic popular mobilisation, removing the tax and health reform (which privatised health). He says he wants to negotiate, calls the CNP to meetings, but continues the brutal repression, saying that he will not accept the blockades. And the CNP, which says it will not negotiate if the repression continues, continues to sit down to negotiate with Duque. Last week it demanded the resignation of the Minister of Defence, Diego Molano (who has just been confirmed by the Senate) who gives direct orders for murderous repression.)
What is the way out?
The opposition, the various centre-left groupings that have parliamentary representation (Gustavo Petro’s Human Colombia, and Hope Coalition, former FARC), as well as the CNP and the trade union confederations are looking forward to negotiating and waiting for the 2022 elections.
Gustavo Petro, after meeting with business owners this weekend, reported that he had formed a group that would be the “economic policy team of the next government”, confident of his victory in the 2022 elections. In that meeting with business people Petro said publicly that: “Don’t think we were building barricades, we are building the democratic country that all Colombians deserve in the face of the current incapacity… the solutions explored by the economic team are those the people are demanding in the streets,” Petro wrote. Although he did not explain what solutions he said are being demanded, a programme agreed with the proprietors has one of its centres in defending the profits of the bosses and not the demands of the people.
In passing, he also said that he does not support “the barricades”, i.e. the huge popular movement of the national strike.
Of course, it is necessary to discuss an economic and political solution for the benefit of the people. The basic solution, after ousting Duque and Uribism, is to impose a government of the workers, the youth, the indigenous people and the Colombian people that ends the ultra-repressive regime in Colombia and advances with an economic plan that ends the capitalist disaster, with emergency measures such as non-payment of the debt, among other measures, and that breaks the domination of the banks, multinationals and imperialism.
Long live the people’s rebellion!
Despite the repression and the tricky negotiations, the popular rebellion for Duque’s departure continues. The Bloc for the Indefinite Strike, formed by various currents, among them our sister organisation Colectivos Unidos (United Collectives), demands that the CNP hold assemblies in all the unions vote to stop production, and join the blockades organised by the youth and the communities and work for the extension of the popular assemblies throughout the country.
Various sectors in struggle are calling for a National Popular Assembly for 6, 7 and 8 June in Bogota, to strengthen and organised the indefinite strike, to defeat the repression and to carry forward the struggle for urgent popular demands such as health and mass vaccination, education with zero tuition, employment and payment of minimum income, protection of peasant production and an end to fumigations with glyphosate, defence of indigenous territories, dissolution of the ESMAD, justice to punish those who repress the people, the release of the detainees and the departure of Ivan Duque.
From the IWU-FI, we support the demands of the mobilised youth and people; we repudiate the criminal repression and call for the widest international solidarity with the rebellion of the Colombian people. We join all those around the world who are carrying out solidarity actions.