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Mon May 10, 2021, 08:57 PM

Colombia Has Lost its Fear: The Strike Lives


5 May, 2021

Update: Since the following text was written, President Ivan Duque of Colombia made a statement on Sunday, May 2 asking Colombia’s congress to withdraw the tax reform bill that had sparked protests across the country. However, as of today, the protests in Colombia continue—especially in the city of Cali, arguably the epicenter of the demonstrations—because that failed law is only the most visible measure in a package of reforms that also includes healthcare privatization.

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When the government is more dangerous than the pandemic, the people must gather en masse to protest. We throw carnivals in the streets to demand our rights, convert police stations into public libraries, and the people, neighborhoods, and sectors of the city unite in a great celebration of grassroots resistance in Colombia. The response has been excessive police force and a president who moves to militarize the country. This is the dual face of the historic General Strike of April 2021. All of Colombia is united against a bad government.

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“SOS: The narco-state is killing us.”

The People Have Been Hobbled, but Still March On
Despite the peace accords signed by the government and the FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Popular Army) in 2016, which were supposed to bring an end to the armed conflict in Colombia, paramilitarism and narco-trafficking continue to fuel the war. El Centro Democrático (the party of ex-president Álvaro Uribe and current president Iván Duque) is responsible for continuing the war; it is focusing its power on asserting political and financial control of the country.

As of February 2021, 252 former FARC guerillas who demobilized to sign a peace accord have been assassinated. Today, four years after signing that peace accord, the government has implemented less than 75% of the agreement, and has taken no action on substantial components of it that were supposed to address the structural causes of the conflict, such as access to, redistribution, and possession of land—which has historically been one of the causes of the deep inequality within the country.

This inequality intensified with the arrival of the pandemic, clearly showing the state’s ineffectiveness, incapacity, and disinterest in the well-being of its people. The delayed decision to close airports greatly accelerated the early spread of the virus. Now, while Colombia is experiencing its third COVID peak, the nation is facing an even worse wave of violence, poverty, and corruption, in which hunger is one of the worst problems. The war is bathing our territory in blood. In the first months of 2021, at least 57 influential participants in social movements have been murdered, 20 of them Indigenous people, most of whom were from the province of Cauca. In addition, there were 158 femicides in the first three months of the year and several other massacres.

Ever since the peace agreement, the government of Iván Duque (a protégé of Uribe) has sought to undermine the peace by all possible means, and they are succeeding. According to INDEPAZ (Institute for Studies in Development and Peace Networks), 124 massacres have taken place in 2020 and 2021, involving over 300 victims altogether. More than 1,000 activists have been murdered in Colombia since the accord was signed. Living in this country is a constant struggle against the austerity policies of a government whose only response to people’s needs is a boot to the face. Alongside economic programs that foster misery and inequality, genocidal political programs aim to exterminate any collective identity outside of or opposed to the reigning order.


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