A movement of mass protests in Colombia has forced new concessions from the right wing government.
A health reform bill that would give more power to private healthcare providers was voted down due to pressure from protesters last week.
And now the government has been forced to examine its own brutal treatment of protesters.
After a 17 hour meeting on Friday, the government issued a decree that security forces must use the appropriate levels of force against protesters.
In the next week the Senate will also move to debate the censure of Defence Minister Diego Molano after numerous complaints that protesters are being treated harshly.
Celebrating the retreat over healthcare, left wing Senator Alexander Lopez said on Twitter, “The people’s struggle in the streets against years and years of injustice has achieved the shelving of a reform that would have destroyed health as a right and commercialised it even more in favour of a few.”
The concessions are only the latest victories for the movement. Early on in the protests, the government was forced to announce that there would be no tax on essentials such as food and gas.
The National Strike Committee headed up by the leaders of major trade unions announced last Thursday it would be prepared to formally negotiate with the government.
It said, “We will insist on the government to demilitarize our cities and stop the massacre of peaceful demonstrators. We will also demand an end to Duque’s neoliberal measures.”
But the Strike Committee also insisted that protests must continue.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets for four weeks running to rage against inequality and police brutality.
The protests began on 28 April and have been met with brutal repression, with Human Rights Watch reporting 55 deaths. But activists have refused to be cowed and have continued to protest daily, forcing the right wing government—headed by president Ivan Duque—to make concessions.
Blockades of Colombia’s roads have severely affected goods distribution. And the government is set on crushing them.
According to the government, blockades have cost Colombia’s economy around £1.1 billion and stopped the transportation of 700,000 tonnes of food.
Two blockades have forced the Cerrejon coal mine to cease production completely.
One is maintained by sacked workers at the mine and another was set up by anti-government protesters.
The Mines and Energy Ministry said blockades across the country have stopped the export of 200,000 tonnes of coal.
Duque’s government looks to be cracking under the pressure of protests strikes and blockades.
But protesters shouldn’t be satisfied by concessions and should stay on the streets and build the strikes to push for more.
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