The meeting between representatives of the National Strike Committee and the Colombian government, held on May 17, ended without reaching an agreement. The National Strike Committee, which brings together a diverse group of social organizations and unions, published A declaration after the meeting and reported that the far-right national government of President IvÃ¡n Duque had refused to provide guarantees for social protests in the country, a condition set to start negotiations to peacefully end the anti-government protests taking place in across the country in the past 20 days.
“Today we were waiting for a response to our demands for guarantees for the demonstration, in order to start negotiations, and the government said no to everything, and it even ignored various questions,” the Committee said in the statement. .
On Sunday, May 16, the Committee submitted a document containing more than 100 demands from different mobilizing sectors, including respect for the constitutional right of Colombians to protest, and in light of this, the demand to immediately withdraw the military. of the streets and end the brutal police and military repression, which killed more than 40 demonstrators. Government officials assured they would assess the document and discuss the requests at Monday’s meeting.
In the statement, the National Strike Committee not only highlighted the government’s unwillingness to move forward in negotiations, but also denounced its response in the form of intensified militarization and repressive actions.
“The real response we received today was the brutal police violence unleashed since last night in Yumbo, with at least two murders, 24 injured and 18 people missing,” the Committee said. He also condemned the fact that “while we were in a meeting, President Duque announced the deployment of the maximum capacity of the public force to unblock the country”. and that their “response to guarantees is that of the scorched earth against the national strike”.
During a demonstration in MedellÃn, demonstrators hold up placards in memory of two people killed by police repression. Photo: Colombia Informa
The Committee stressed that, despite disagreements and repression, it is always ready to engage in dialogue as long as the guarantees requested are respected. The Committee announced that “the strike continues” and endorsed its call for “the broadest and most peaceful mobilizations for this Wednesday, May 19, for life and peace”, launched before the meeting.
Francisco Maltes, President of the Central Union of Workers (CUT), in conversation with The spectador, declared that âwe cannot initiate a negotiating table because of the violence that is being experienced because there is a violation of international humanitarian law. This massacre that exists must stop. Maltes also stressed that “if Duque had responded to the list of requests a year ago, this would not happen”.
Repression and human rights violations
In the last 20 days of national strike and national mobilisations across Colombia, national security forces have unleashed an unprecedented level of repression against peaceful protesters.
On Monday morning, officials from the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) suppressed a peaceful protest in the town of Yumbo, in the Valle del Cauca department, with tear gas, while a helicopter fired indiscriminately against the demonstrators. In the incident, two protesters were killed, 24 were injured, most of them in critical condition, while 18 are missing after their arrest by ESMAD.
Also on Sunday evening, ESMAD officials attacked citizens with guns in the city. During the shooting, according to reports, a bullet hit a gas cylinder and caused an explosion near the headquarters of the state oil company, Ecopetrol, killing one and injuring more than 10 protesters.
Senator Wilson Arias of the Progressive Democratic Pole Party, via his Twitter account, condemned the incident as an act to incite war. âI am told that in a huge and macabre provocation, they detonated an Ecopetrol tank in Yumbo. Like the burning of the Reichstag in Germany, which preceded the Holocaust, the dark forces want to start a war and a massive massacre against the people in Colombia â, tweeted Arias, calling on the people to join the mobilization on May 19 by the millions.
According to the human rights organization Tremors, between April 28 and May 17, 43 people were killed by the police, 18 people were sexually assaulted by the police, 33 were injured in the eyes, 1,139 were arbitrarily arrested and 146 were injured by gun by police. In total, 2,387 cases of police violence were recorded. Other estimates have shown that the number of people killed in the protests is at least 50 and that several have been killed by unidentified actors.
In this regard, on May 14, several national human rights organizations and progressive Senator Ivan Cepeda filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed by the Colombian government during the ongoing national strike. in the country, and asked the ICC to intervene.
On May 15, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) asked the Colombian government for permission to verify the human rights situation, after receiving thousands of petitions from representatives of Colombian civil society, of students, academics and politicians to investigate human rights. violations committed by the security forces.
Since April 28, hundreds of thousands of Colombians have been mobilizing across the country as part of the national strike against President Duque and his neoliberal policies. The national strike was called by unions, social organizations and left-wing political parties against the Sustainable Solidarity Bill, a tax reform bill introduced by the national government that aimed to finance the budget deficit incurred in because of the COVID-19 pandemic from the pockets of the working class. After five days of massive protests, Duque announced the withdrawal of the bill. However, Colombians have remained on the streets to demand that the government address the broader issues facing the country.
Courtesy: Peoples Dispatch