Socialist Worker

Violence against protests increases in Colombia while talks collapse

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2757

Protesters want out

Protesters want "assassin" President Ivan Duque out (Pic: Flickr/ Philippe Agnifili)


Protests are continuing to rage in Colombia despite escalating state violence.

It has been reported that 13 people were killed at a protest in the south-western city Cali, on Friday of last week.

Humans Rights Watch now believes the total number of deaths since the start of the protests totals almost 70.

There are also reports that the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron, which is known to use extreme violence, has been torturing and detaining protesters.

Some humanitarian organisations have also reported the existence of mass graves.

Protests

Strikes and protests began on 28 April after right wing President Ivan Duque announced plans to raise taxes on essential items.

Duque was forced to quickly announce there would no longer be increases on items such as food and gas four days later, but protests continued.

Protests have already forced concessions from the government.

These includes the voting down of the health reform bill that would give more power to private ­healthcare providers.

The government was also made to examine its own violent treatment of protesters, issuing a decree that security forces must use the appropriate levels of force.

But since then, the brutal repression by the police and military against protesters has only worsened.

In a statement from the National Strike Committee, which has entered talks with the government, a draft of an agreement to end the violence was rejected by those in power.

Its demands include an end to police brutality and the resignation of defence minister Diego Molano.

The talks then collapsed on Sunday. But talks have already faced a number of dead ends.

One of the first was that the government said it wanted the National Strike Committee to lift roadblocks across the country.

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These roadblocks of people have caused shortages of food as well as costing the state millions.

Reactionary forces have tried to organise against the roadblocks. Thousands joined a demonstration in the capital Bogota on Sunday to call for an end to protests and in support of security forces.

But the roadblocks have mostly been organised by ordinary people—out of the control of the National Strike Committe.

The Committee last week pushed for more protests.

It says this is to pressure the government into more negotiations.

But it also made it clear that negotiations with the government are designed to do a deal with, not remove, Duque.

And despite talks collapsing, the trade unions and social movements involved in the National Strike Committee say they will continue to look to negotiate with the government.

Calling for the protests to end would be a mistake.

The government has already been pushed to make concessions to the protesters.

Only more action—not negotiations—will force real change.


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