Colombia: The popular rebellion continues

By Miguel Lamas (IWU-FI)

No to the treacherous dialogue!

Monday 10 May President Duque summoned the protest leaders of the National Command for the Strike (CNP) to a “dialogue” with the aid of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, despite the violent repression and COVID, the massive popular rebellion and the national strike continue, with hundreds of roads and paths blocked, under the slogan Duque Chao! (Bye bye, Duque!).

After a three-hour meeting with Duque, the protest leaders said: “We did not reach any agreement. The president did not show sympathy for the victims. We demand the massacre to stop.” They reported a set of demands was put forward and called to a new strike on 12 May.

They have called the 28 April and 5 May strikes. But the youth, the indigenous peoples that swarmed the cities, and the workers, have been on an uninterrupted strike since 28 April. They distrust dialogue with Duque. They want him out!

The CNP gathers the bureaucratic leaders of the three central unions (CUT, CTC, and CGT) and the Fecode (Colombian Federation of Education), politically aligned with the centre-left Dignidad (former Moir), and in a lesser degree, with the Liberal Party. Center-left sectors adhere to this “dialogue”, such as Gustavo Petro from Colombia Humana (Humane Colombia), and Coalición de la Esperanza (Hope Coalition).

Petro came in second place in the 2018 elections, which put Duque in power after the re-run. Last week, Petro sent a message to the CNP saying that they “should have stopped after they retired the tax reform and proclaimed a popular victory.” 

In fact the CNP tried hard to stop the popular protests, as Petro had asked, but they could not. Popular demonstrations that have kept millions on the streets for a fortnight overwhelmed them, despite the annulment of the tax reform that had sparked the mobilisation. The strike continued for other demands. Colombia has 20 million people in extreme poverty, over the total population of 50 million. Three million people contracted COVID and 78,000 died. Therefore, the urgent popular demands are many.

The government’s criminal repression with the ESMAD (riot police), the army and paramilitary forces, have caused 47 deaths, 963 arbitrary detentions, 12 sexual violence cases, hundreds of injured people among them 28 with serious eye injuries as to last Saturday. Despite extreme violence and COVID, demonstrators faced ESMAD in real street battles that lasted for hours, and on some occasions, they made ESMAD run.

 Colombia did not come out of the blue

The present popular rebellion in Colombia has precedent in the Latin American popular rebellions in 2019 in Colombia itself, Chile and Ecuador. In all cases, they started as a reaction to the anti-popular economic measures, and they ended up demanding that the governments responsible, Piñera in Chile and Lenin Moreno in Ecuador, be ousted.

Though many believed COVID had shut down the rebellions, in November 2020 thousands of young Peruvian people took to the streets against the corrupt right-wing governments, demanding que se vayan todos! (they should all quit!). In March 2021, Paraguay witnessed another popular outburst demanding medicine and vaccines, and they also demanded president “Marito” (Mario Abdo Benitez) should resign.

Today, the serious situation the Colombian people are living now is the same one the great majority of the peoples in Latin America and the world are undergoing in a major capitalist crisis that condemns millions of people to hunger and illnesses. That is why the popular rebellion in Colombia can be a powerful international example.

International solidarity with the popular rebellion!

Uribe, chief leader of Duque’s party, has a semi-fascist background that encourages many to think that he is preparing a self-coup to crush with the military the popular rebellion. However, this is highly unlikely as the government is extremely weak and American imperialism and the UN advise the government to be “moderate”, fearing rebellion can expand even further.

Thus, Duque’s policy is for the “dialogue” to put a stop to the popular mobilisation, with the aid of the union bureaucracy of CNP and the centre-left of Gustavo Petro, the Hope Coalition and the Liberal Party, as well as the Catholic Church and the UN.

If they cannot stop mobilisation, Duque can fall. They may be forced into some form of succession or call for early elections.

The real solution is not only that Duque leaves, but that a government of the workers, the youth and the Colombian people can take his place and put an end to the ultra-repressive regime and the capitalist disaster. A government that moves forward with an economic plan at the service of the working people, with emergency measures such as non-payment of the debt, among other measures, and that breaks with the multinationals and imperialism. In Colombia, Colectivos Unidos (United Collective) fight for this and calls the fighters to join in as well as for the unity of the revolutionaries to develop a political leadership as an alternative to the reformist variants.

Popular Assemblies have arisen, and it is fundamental to develop them throughout the national territory, as spaces of articulation between activists and communities at the service of strengthening the national strike, and as a democratic mechanism for decision making. The Block for the General Strike has called for a National Meeting of Popular Assemblies on 22 May.

Today we must support the mobilisation against the “Paquetazo” (austerity plan), which raises its demands, including health and mass vaccination, education with zero tuition, employment, protection of peasant production, defence of indigenous territories, dissolution of the ESMAD, to bring to trial those who repress the people, the release of detainees and to have Ivan Duque ousted. The IWU-FI support this programme of struggle and calls to the broadest solidarity with this rebellion of the Colombian people.