A demonstration against the Colombian government, in Cali, on June 13 LUIS ROBAYO / AFP
After 49 days of mobilizations in Colombia, the national strike committee - which brings together the workers' centrals - announced a change of strategy in the protests against the government of Iván Duque. Union leaders have decided to temporarily suspend the marches that they have held every Wednesday across the country since April 28. "This does not mean that social mobilization will stop in Colombia, it will continue because the causes that generated it remain in force," said Francisco Maltés, president of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) in an expected press conference after several days of deliberations.
The growing criticism of the blockades that impact the country's economy;
the crowds at the most aggressive peak of the pandemic;
and the lack of consensus with the Government, led to this interruption of some mobilizations, which were already diminishing.
"It's about saving lives in two directions," said Percy Oyola, president of the General Confederation of Labor.
The union leader assured that, on the one hand, there are no guarantees for the exercise of the protest and this has led to the murder of young people;
on the other, they hope that the interruption of the marches will prevent the growth of the pandemic, which is reaching record deaths in recent weeks.
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The death of young people and police violence have been at the center of the social outbreak. "We do not want to continue killing young people in the protests," added Oyola, recalling the murder of Junior Jein, a renowned musician and social leader killed in Cali over the weekend at the hands of armed civilians. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), 34 deaths have been documented in the context of the demonstrations and at least 20 were at the hands of the police. A similar figure admits Foreign Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez who spoke of 21 investigations into homicides against protesters during her trip to Geneva (Switzerland) to meet with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachellet. In total, there are 170 disciplinary investigations against officers for police abuse.
The committee's decision ends, at least formally, the strike, although not necessarily the local protests that awoke in cities such as Cali, Medellín or Bogotá. At various points today called resistance, thousands of young people who do not feel represented by the union leaders, continue to demonstrate against the government and have organized in popular assemblies but in some cases they have lifted the barricades and blockades that obstructed the passage of the neighbors. .
Roadblocks were precisely the most criticized measures in the country. The death of two babies in ambulances who were prevented from passing; the economic losses that the Executive calculates in 3,300 million dollars, were weakening the support to the protests. The Ministry of Defense assures that 1,119 roads have been unblocked and 15 still persist in Valle del Cauca, Norte de Santander and some areas of Bogotá.
The strike committee sat at the table with government delegates to discuss a list of six-point demands: a basic income of a minimum wage for seven months for six million people; zero tuition for five years for university students for five years, among others. However, the Government demanded the lifting of the blockades as a red line, while the union delegates demanded guarantees for the protest and that the Executive condemn the police violence. "The response to the emergency statement has been the repression and police brutality that led many countries in the world to condemn the excess of public force against the protesters," said Maltese, who pointed out the withdrawal of the tax reform and the resignation of the finance ministers and the Chancellor.
After unsuccessful talks, the strike committee now announces that it will present its list of petitions by way of draft laws in Congress.
They will have a dialogue with different sectors and will be supported by the academy to do them and on July 20, when a new legislature begins, they will mobilize to present them.
"We aspire that congressmen do not fail Colombians as President Duque has failed them," added the leader of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores.
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