Howie Hawkins For The Future
For immediate release: March 5, 2021
For more information: Howie Hawkins, [email protected], 315-200-6046
The popular uprising against the neoliberal austerity measures and political repression of the Duque government in Colombia entered its fourth week today with the National Strike Committee announcing a new round of strikes and mass marches.
We demand that the Biden administration use its influence on the Colombian military and police to stop the brutal repression of free speech and assembly happening in the streets of Colombia over the past three weeks. The United States must use its influence to ensure the upcoming 2022 elections for president and parliament are fair and free of the fraud and political assassinations that we have witnessed conducted by the Far Right in the past.
Colombia has the highest wealth inequality in South America, and the divisions between the rich and poor are incredibly stark. Throughout the pandemic the working class across the globe bore the brunt of the suffering, and in Colombia it is no different.
The Colombian government is trying to make workers and the poor pay for the economic crisis. President Ivan Duque used the country’s deficit to try and justify increased taxes on working people. But Colombians have stood together and protests have forced the right wing government to back down from plans to raise taxes on goods such as food and gas. Duque is still clinging to other regressive tax reforms and said he will push ahead with a newly modified bill.
The protests come amid high levels of unemployment and deteriorating social security in the country. These protests and strikes against austerity measures are being met with brutal repression. Duque ordered police and military to be sent in to disperse protesters and to remove roadblocks. This caused a massive battle between the state and the workers—a confrontation that resulted in death and injury: more than 50 people killed, as many as 89 people have gone missing, over the last three weeks.
Within Colombia the corporate news media are avoiding coverage of the protests. They instead depict them as riots and describe protesters as “terrorists”. Instead, as we see in oppressive states, social media has played a massive role in organizing and sustaining the protests by using the hashtag #SOSColombia. The state is looking to clamp down on this and there are reports of accounts and posts covering the protests being removed for violating “community guidelines”.
The U.S. government needs to demand that Duque’s regime must allow peaceful assembly and protest. The Colombian military has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the U.S. military — since the counter-insurgency training and operations of the Kennedy years and especially since Plan Colombia was approved by Congress in 2000 as a U.S.-backed program of violent repression of opposition movements under the cover of the “War on Drugs.”
While in As a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2000, it was Joe Biden who spearheaded the very policies the approval of Plan Colombia that trained and funded the paramilitary death squads that have killed hundreds of labor and social movement leaders in the last couple of decades, as well as the armed forces, in which the riot police are embedded, that are currently massacring and repressing the Colombian people with impunity.
There are seven US military bases in Colombia housing U.S.-trained assassins. The U.S. military itself broke strikes earlier in the 20th century on behalf of United Fruit. The long arm of U.S. intervention goes back to supporting Panama’s secession to get the canal built in 1903.
There is a deepening movement within the Colombian working class. We stand in solidarity with all the popular sectors the have risen up in protest — organized workers and their unions, workers in the larger informal sectors, students, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian people, feminist and LGBTQ movements, urban neighborhoods — whose actions include mass mobilizations in the streets and shutting down production and striking. A poll of Colombians earlier this week showed that 80% reject the police brutality with which the Duque government has responded to the protests. We support the workers’ resistance against violent government repression and neoliberal austerity, and call upon the U.S. government to demand the end of this repression against the Colombian people.