Report Back from the Ongoing National Strike in Colombia
Sunday January 12
UE Hall, 37 S. Ashland
John Ocampo, organizer with UE, has recently returned from Colombia.
The corporate press has not been reporting on the weeks-long national strike in Colombia which has shaken up the country. What little coverage we see is misleading. Colombia is the central base of US operations in Latin America and functions as the US’ Israel in South America. Like Israel, Colombia is held as a model of democracy, freedom, and economic development, even though the government is heavily involved with death squads and drug smuggling.
The Colombia national strike has been the largest popular mobilization in Colombia since the 1970s. Millions took to the streets to reject the policies of President Ivan Duque, his mentor Álvaro Uribe (father of Colombia´s death squads) and their overlords in Washington DC.
The national strike is in reaction to the elimination of workers’ right to a pension and to a 25% cut in the minimum wage of young workers. The people also demand the government comply with the 2016 peace accords. They are fed up with the government violence against social movement and peace process leaders. Every 30 hours, a social movement leader or former insurgent is killed.
Since the national strike began, various polls have shown public support at 55% and over 70%. President Duque’s disapproval rating is at 70% and disapproval of his handling of the strike is at 75%.
The police have killed at least four protesters. In an attempt to crush the movement against the rightwing government, students have been kidnapped off the streets and beaten and tortured, journalists have been arrested en masse, and police have raped, tortured, and threatened protesters with murder.
The U.S. government is complicit in the current disregard and brutal treatment of the masses of Colombians. This aid has been approved to Colombia even as the strike continues, even as the police continue their abuses, and even as the government of Colombia completely disregards the demands of millions of their citizens.
John Ocampo is a union organizer with UE (United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America). He is on the board of directors of the Alliance for Global Justice (AfGJ) and US Labor Against the War (USLAW). He has done international accompaniment work with campesino organizations in Guatemala, served as an electoral observer in El Salvador and Honduras, helped lead international delegations to Cuba, Paraguay, and Colombia and has participated in solidarity campaigns with Colombian workers and prisoners. John was most recently in Colombia in December 2019 on a joint AfGJ-USLAW labor delegation.
For more info: Stan Smith, 773-322-3168, firstname.lastname@example.org