Socialist Worker

Colombian unions take a stand against neo-liberalism

by Special correspondent for Frontline Latin America magazine
Issue No. 1972

Colombia’s unions and social movements were set to hold a national strike on Wednesday of this week.

This was called by the coalition against the government of President Uribe, and especially its decision to press ahead with a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) agreement with the US.

Feelings are running very high against the FTAA.

The Colombian government is increasingly reliant upon the US government and it has accepted demands on medicines and intellectual property rights favourable to US multinationals.

The FTAA talks hinge on the Andean countries opening up their economies to subsidised US exports like rice and maize. This will devastate domestic production of foodstuffs.

In August over 3,000 mostly indigenous marchers covered the 80 kilometres from Guamo to Ibagué behind the banner “No to the FTAA, support the national strike stoppage”.

The regional march culminated in a people’s gathering that pledged support for an ongoing mobilisation against the multinationals.

A day of action on 22 September focused on the Caribbean city of Cartagena. Businessmen from Colombia, Ecuador and Peru were meeting with US trade officials for the 12th and penultimate round of FTAA negotiations.

That day witnessed mass protests in the capital Bogota and in Cali, where Esmad, the anti-riot police unit, shot 21 year old chemistry student Jhony Silva Aranjuren dead.

Students at Valle university had protested in solidarity with the working class district of Candelaria whose water supply had been cut off for a week.

Esmad entered the university campus firing teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

The Colombia Solidarity Campaign from Britain was visiting Cali and our higher education delegation joined the 8,000 people who attended Jhony’s funeral.

Despite ever present repression, and deep sadness for fallen comrades, the determination in the Colombian working class to resist was set to break onto the streets once again.

Opposition co-ordinating group Relcaca has called this week’s stoppage. It promises to give President Uribe “a massive headache”. A solidarity picket of the Colombian embassy in London was planned for Wednesday of this week.

Public meeting:
Women Organising against the War in Colombia, speaker Jackeline Rojas of Organización Femenina Popular, 7pm, Wednesday 19 October, Union Tavern, 52 Lloyd Baker Street, London EC1 (nearest tube Kings Cross). Organised by Colombia Solidarity Campaign and Peace Brigades International. Go to

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Article information

Sat 15 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1972
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