Four days after the massive protests of the National Strike, the Duque government has ordered the militarisation of the cities to contain the mobilisations that continue despite having been brutally attacked by the National Police, which have already killed 35 people, arrested 400, more than ten young people injured and 2 women raped by the National Police, who use firearms at point-blank range to disperse the demonstrators and enter homes and residential complexes firing gas and stun guns.
The youth, the working class and the poor – despite the pandemic – have taken to the streets to risk their lives, not only in the face of the possibility of contagion but also in the face of repression by the police. The masses are not only coming out to confront the tax reform and Duque’s “Paquetazo” (set of measures) but to protest against the conditions of misery in which they live.
The protests are led by young people who only expect unemployment, indebtedness for their studies and precarious working conditions, as well as by popular sectors, most of whom live in the gig economy and have to endure daily police persecution.
And the fact is that last year, according to the made-up figures of the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), extreme poverty reached 42.5% of the population, an increase of almost seven points compared to 2019, which was 35.7%. In other words, the pandemic left 3.6 million people in extreme poverty.
Militarisation of cities
Ivan Duque, announced on May Day night that he would resort to “military assistance,” stated in the Law 1801 of 2016 or Police Code, which is defined as “the legal instrument that can be applied when events of serious alteration of security and coexistence require it, or in the face of imminent risk or danger, or to deal with an emergency or public calamity, through which the President of the Republic, may have, temporarily and exceptionally, the assistance of the military force.”
This measure was taken after former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez invited, on social media, to support “the right of soldiers and police to use their weapons.”
This authoritarian measure by the pro-Uribe government of Iván Duque is a sign of the regime’s weakness in the face of a wave of protests throughout the country that they have been unable to contain and which has had its epicentre in Cali city and the south-west of Colombia.
In fact, the police have been taking control in the cities, overriding the mayor’s duties, who have been watching “the running of bulls” from the sidelines, limiting themselves to making statements of support for the institutions or attending detention centres to ‘verify’ police actions.
Silence in the face of the massacre
This massacre has left more than 20 young people murdered in Cali, Bogotá and Ibagué, several crippled by ESMAD weapons, more than 400 people arrested but met with the silence of the supposed control bodies. Neither the Attorney General’s Office nor the Ombudsman’s Office showed up in the face of police barbarity. The mayor’s offices have limited themselves to silently support the police and accusing the youth of vandalism. Multilateral organisations which on other occasions have spoken out against governments that repress demonstrations have kept silent. The media, defending their regime, are spokespersons for the National Police and do not mention their crimes and hide the figures of those killed.
However, the people are on the streets and are ready to continue fighting, to continue calling for mobilisations in a National Strike that, as in 2019, surpassed the calculations of the trade union centres’ bureaucracy that control the National Strike Committee, who called a virtual concert while thousands of people were on the streets, in an act of betrayal of the protests.
It also exceeded the calculations of the opposition parties. Some have backed the police repression of their oppositionist mayors’ offices while others have preferred to ‘support’ the struggles, but not to take the lead to show ‘equanimity’ towards the regime.
Meanwhile, thousands of young people, peasants, women, Afro and indigenous communities and the working class are taking to the streets not only against the tax reform that has been rejected even by the governing parties but also against the conditions of poverty and misery that they have had to endure for decades and that have worsened during the pandemic.
Therefore, we call on the working class, human rights, social and popular organisations at the international level to show solidarity with the struggles in Colombia, to denounce the massacre being perpetrated against those who have taken to the streets and to reject the militarisation ordered by the authoritarian government of Ivan Duque.
We also call on the troops and police not to comply with orders to massacre the population of which they are part, not to shoot against their own people, refuse to repress and join the youth’s heroic struggles.
From the Socialist Workers Party, we call for an international SOS Colombia campaign, it is necessary to support the struggles with mobilisations abroad, with sit-ins at the Colombian Embassies, with boycotts of Colombian products, demanding that this massacre be stopped.
It is also urgent an Emergency Meeting that can lead the National Strike against the Duque government because the National Strike Committee controlled by the trade union bureaucracies has not been able to take the lead. The new leadership of the trade union and popular organisations is needed to confront this declaration of war by the Duque government against the working class and the poor.